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The Jazz are beaten defensively versus the Pistons. What can Jazz do to improve the in-ring experience?

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Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 125-116 loss to the Detroit Pistons of the Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

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1. The Disciplined Jazz have the worst defensive night of the season

Will Hardy was very clear about his team’s defense tonight:

“Very poor. I think we do a really bad job on pick and roll defense. I have to do a better job teaching, we’re on screens. Our receiving points are bad. We’re just not physical with the ball handler.”

Yes, I agree with that. Overall, the Pistons got a lot of what they wanted, especially on the inside, and the result was their worst defensive performance of the season against a bottom-10 offensive team that lost two of their five best players.

In the last game, the problem was largely transitional defense. That was bad again tonight, too. But the half-court defense was more troubling, truth be told.

Sometimes, it was losing focus. Colin Sexton gets hit in the back door here, mostly because he’s watching the ball and not his man.

Jared Vanderbilt is usually a sponge on defensive rebounds – I don’t remember a jazz pianist usually trying harder. What is this? (And why isn’t anyone helping him?)

Kelly Olynyk is in a position to help here…and then stand up for her.

If the Jazz are going to continue to be this good, they have to put in better defensive efforts than ball possession. It’s hard to play like I did in Game 1 in Game 20, I get that. But the reason the Jazz lost to the Pistons tonight, in a game they were favored to win by 12 points, is that they let down a lot of defensive responsibilities once again.

2. Colin Sexton’s career high in assists

Colin Sexton got a lot of criticism when he wasn’t playing well, and I think that to a degree. The night was a real turnaround for him, though: He tallied a career-high 12 assists.

There’s some really good stuff in that assist, too, as Sexton uses his aggressiveness to set up his teammates, rather than driving him into a dead end. This is after a made basket, but Sexton runs down the court to draw the defense, then finds Walker Kessler over the top for an easy layup.

Here, Sexton was open to his 10-footer, but found Malik Beasley with a better, more efficient over-the-top shot. Great vision!

He can isolate against Isaiah Livers, then use the collapsed defense to find Olynyk’s cut for an easy dunk.

He can run down the field, find Beasley, and get the best three-point shooting with his handoff and bumping up the defender a bit.

These are all smart point guard plays! Very good juggling of space and defenders in order to open up teammates – the kind of thing super-athlete Mike Conley can do.

Can I tell you my favorite thing about all of these videos? He celebrates after each of his passes. He jumps up and down after Kessler’s second quarter assist. He raised his hands in the air as Beasley shot all three. He really enjoys his teammates’ success, and finds joy in more than just scoring.

I really hope this will be a turning point for Sexton. If so, that would be huge for his longtime Jazz career going forward.

3. The talking ops game

This will be a very convenient spot for all the fans who attend Jazz games at Vivint Arena. We’ll talk about game processes, or for short, “game processes” – that is, all the things that happen in the arena while the game is paused. Time-out entertainment, in-stadium halftime shows, pre- and post-game stuff, etc.

And here’s the unfiltered truth: Jazz is really bad right now.

As part of that job, I’ve been to every road circuit in the league, and I’ve been to hundreds of NBA games outside of Vivint Arena. Jazz lovers first class. The remodeled Vivint Arena is also top notch. The in-game experience, along with the game, is not.

Tonight, the halftime show was two random fans competing to see who could name more Thanksgiving foods and holiday traditions, then trying to catch footballs from the crowd by the Jazz Bear, then trying to play the password with clues on their foreheads. This is very low-key entertainment unworthy of an NBA franchise! It’s the latest in a long line of bizarre and disappointing halftime shows over the past two years. I miss red panda.

Honestly, it was a daunting task for arena manager Andrea Urban to be able to put on something like this halftime show. Andrea is great, but it was just too much for anyone to handle. The appointment of a new director Mike Goodkind is truly Loud, and obviously new to Utah – as evidenced by him saying “Utah” about 30 times per game when he was first brought in. But he gets better as he gains more experience, and he announces clearly so as to be able to be heard via the sound system, something emcees fail to do.

(Speaking of the sound system, it’s really tough – probably the worst in the NBA.)

There are some good entertainment options, and some bad ones. The best of the bunch is the Qualtrics Place contest – a very good and interesting contest with real bets behind it. I also don’t mind the America First shell game with coins, nor tap your luck with the Jazz Bear as the strike token.

LGCY Power’s “time out party,” where they turn off the lights and play an obnoxious video on a Jumbotron, is definitely not a good time. It is an eye-catching experience. Jazz dancers, frankly, have some of the worst choreography in the league. I think it’s partly because previous owner Jill Miller really held them back, but the dancers’ routines for every NBA team are more impressive, and so are the college dance teams in Utah that I’ve seen.

The stunt team, which took most of the performers from the Weber State stunt troupe, was so good it was eliminated. The dunk team also didn’t perform this season, and I suspect they were eliminated as well. We haven’t seen old hardtops like baby races, puppy races, trike races, or shooting competitions.

Player videos seem to be lacking to jazz this year. There are no videos of players doing trivia contests, answering prompts, telling fans to speak out loud – or showing character in any way.

Fan gifts are rare in Vivint Arena compared to other teams. I know they have slingers on the jerseys, but we haven’t seen much of it this year. No gatling gun t-shirt either. These are all fan interactions, but for some reason they have been eliminated. Cookie Crumbl gifts are good, but only in one department — everyone knows they’re not going to get a cookie.

Gifs of Malik Paisley screaming and partying with Jordan Clarkson are hits, and rightfully so. The Chik-Fil-A free throw promotion is great, as is the case for many of the league’s teams.

Finally, I have to say: the game prequels have been terrible this year. This is the song they play before they run out.

This is a great song and I have nothing against Nardo Wake. that it very Low energy. It’s not a hype song.

To be clear, the Jazz’s game operations are some of the worst in the league isn’t just Andy Larsen’s opinion. This is the opinion of the majority of people who travel all over the league and have no choice but to notice some of these things. To the jazz fans’ credit, they are as loud and engaging as they are, despite all this.

I want the in-game entertainment at Vivint Arena to be as good as Dallas’s, Memphis’s, Portland’s, Atlanta’s, Sacramento’s, Chicago’s or Philadelphia’s. Jazz lovers deserve better.

Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting the local press.

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