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Utah Jazz vow to finish strong, but losses taking a toll

Published April 10, 2014 11:23 am

Team's defense, offense have bottomed out in stretch run.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In the wake of another defeat, Trey Burke tried to remain upbeat.

"You just got to stay with it," the rookie point guard said, surrounded by supporters in the Jazz locker room following Tuesday's loss to the Dallas Mavericks. "The adversity that we're facing right now as a team, it's only going to make us stronger in the future."

In a few years' time, perhaps we'll be able to look back and say that the Jazz walked through the flames of adversity and came out better.

Right now they look like they're just getting burned alive.

A difficult year has bottomed out as the Jazz push to the end.

But with four games left, the mantra remains: finish strong. Though what that means is somewhat abstract at this point.

"Finishing strong is not necessarily wins and losses. It's playing hard. It's working hard. It's staying focused," forward Richard Jefferson said. "It's not shooting percentages. It's not how many points you score. Especially with our team, it's not necessarily how many wins and losses you have. It's just about how you approach each game."

If the approach is right, it hasn't produced good numbers yet.

The Jazz, already the worst defensive team in the league, giving up 109 points per 100 possessions on the year, have seen their D drop off even more. Over its last eight games, a stretch with just one win, Utah's defensive rating is a league-worst 116.3.

And the offense isn't keep pace, as the Jazz have the NBA's worst net rating over that stretch: -14.2 per 100 possessions. In this stretch run, the Jazz have seen some positives. Gordon Hayward is averaging 18.4 points and shooting 42 percent over the last eight games. Enes Kanter is averaging a double-double. And Alec Burks is getting to the free throw line nearly eight times a game, en route to 16.8 points per contest.

But there have been steep declines elsewhere over the last eight games:

•Â Teams are outscoring the Jazz by 16.6 per 100 possessions with Burke on the floor.

•Â Marvin Williams' net rating has dropped from -5.6 on the year to -19.1 in this stretch.

Following a blowout loss in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, Jazz coach Ty Corbin took exception with his team's body language — something he hasn't done much this year.

"I didn't like it at the end. I thought the group at the very end came back and fought. When they made some shots we acted like we were a little defeated," he said. "We can't afford to feel sorry for ourselves and not continue to fight, and I thought the group at the end, at least they came out and tried to execute and fight hard."

"Guys get a little frustrated, as most young players do and young teams do," Jefferson added. "Veteran teams, they persevere and they push through. We have a young team and at times if they miss a few shots or the other team hits a few shots, they're going to hang their heads. That's just something you go through with a young team. But it changes as you get more mature and understand the game is a long process."

The process may be long, but the season has just four games left.

And Corbin expects his players to finish strong.

"These guys aren't going to quit, man," he said. "They understand where we are. They understand if we're going to have any chance of being successful we have to stay together and work hard to do that. Even though we've gone through some adversity, they seem to come back and fight."

afalk@sltrib.com

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Jazz player net ratings

Player rating based on team points scored vs. points allowed per 100 possessions while on the floor:

Player Sea* L8**

Alec Burks 7.5 -11.3

Brandon Rush -12.3 7.9

Derrick Favors -9.2 -9.9

Diante Garrett -4.9 -10.4

Enes Kanter -13 -15.4

Gordon Hayward -8.4 -12

Ian Clark 0.2 -30.9

Jeremy Evans -7.5 -17.2

John Lucas III -16.5 -10.2

Malcolm Thomas -30.9 -51.5

Marvin Williams -5.6 -19.1

Richard Jefferson -10.4 -13.4

Rudy Gobert -2.4 2.7

Trey Burke -7.3 -16.6

*Season **Last 8 games