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Kragthorpe: Jazz find another excuse for offensive troubles

Published December 27, 2012 2:44 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

So the schedule temporarily turns in the Jazz's favor after a road-heavy start, and how do they respond? With absolutely their worst performance of the season, that's how.

Wednesday night's 94-83 loss to Golden State at EnergySolutions Arena was disturbing offensively, alarming in terms of the Western Conference standings and costly in next June's NBA Draft.

Oh, no. There was not a lot of redeeming value in the Jazz's post-Christmas showing, except maybe for endorsing point guard Mo Williams' importance. Sidelined by a sprained thumb, Williams watched his teammates struggle to make shots as their season keeps gradually sliding away from them.

The 11-point margin is deceiving. The Jazz (15-15) trailed by 22 at one stage and were never in the game after collapsing midway through the second quarter. Golden State's zone defense "flustered us a little bit," said Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward, after his team's 38 percent shooting night.

There's seemingly always some simple explanation for the Jazz's offensive woes. Whatever the cause, the trend is unmistakable. The Jazz are threatening to become the worst shooting team in the franchise's 39-year history.

They're barely above 44 percent for the season, and the biggest reason is they're just not getting the easy baskets that have characterized the Jazz's offense for decades.

"I don't care what offense you're running, if you're not aggressive in it, it's not going to get you what you want," said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. "We've got enough stuff in; we've just got to execute it."

The Warriors' zone "did what it was supposed to do," Hayward said. "It kind of forced us to take jump shots and, for whatever reason, we didn't step up and shoot it to make it. A lot of times, we were just shooting it."

Wait, what? Sadly, no better explanation was forthcoming in the losing locker room. All I know is the way Golden State (19-10), Houston, Minnesota and Portland are playing, the Jazz will struggle just to barely squeeze into the playoffs again.

Suddenly, ex-Jazz guard Mark Jackson is looking like the NBA Coach of the Year. What's behind his Warriors' resurgence? "More talent," Jackson said. "On top of that, we've got guys that are committed."

And they're not trying to lose, which probably helps. You'd like to believe some cosmic forces would catch up to Golden State, after the way the organization tanked games last April in the interest of temporarily keeping a protected draft pick that otherwise would have gone to the Jazz. Instead, the Warriors are thriving. They were too bad for the Jazz to get their 2012 first-round draft pick (forward Harrison Barnes) and now they're too good for their 2013 selection to mean much.

As of today, that pick is No. 24, devaluing the Jazz's trade of Deron Williams to the Nets. They've landed Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter through that deal and, by extension, Marvin Williams — having acquired him from Atlanta for Devin Harris. Williams looked worthless Wednesday, with one rebound, one assist and one dunk in 18 minutes. With him on the floor, the Jazz were outscored by 13 points. Favors was even less helpful, shockingly.

So the Jazz may have been treated unfairly by the Warriors' tactics last season, but this debacle was their own doing. They could have knocked Golden State down a notch in the draft order and aided their playoff cause in the process.

As it is, they're left with this unpleasant bit of consolation: They may not be getting a lottery pick from Golden State, but they're playing themselves into one of their own.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.comTwitter: @tribkurt