If there’s any outside concern that the success the Jazz had in last Thursday’s preseason finale vs. the Kings will engender a sense of complacency or false confidence heading into this Wednesday’s regular-season opener in Sacramento, no one in the organization seems to share it.
“Both teams will be different,” said coach Quin Snyder. “Really, it’s an easy demarcation.”
So, then, forget about the Jazz shooting 60 percent from the field, thanks in part to so thoroughly getting the Kings’ heads’ spinning on defense that Utah racked up 14 dunks, including seven alley-oops.
Forget about all those wide-open corner 3s, which paved the way for hitting 14 shots from deep and converting them at a 46.7-percent clip.
And forget about Utah’s defense thoroughly and completely crushing Sacramento’s spirits by forcing a 4-for-27 shooting performance in the first 12 minutes of action.
The Jazz know that none of that matters now, and it’s best not to even think of it.
“We have to forget about that game. That was a preseason game. Now we’re getting ready for the regular season, where we’re playing them for real now,” said veteran big man Derrick Favors. “So we have to go out there with the right mentality, know that they’re gonna come out ready — it’s their home opener, so they’re gonna come out with a lot of energy. We just have to be mentally strong to withstand that first quarter. Make sure we’re solid defensively, make sure we run through our sets offensively, share the ball, play the way we want.”
In the days leading up to Wednesday’s rematch at the Golden 1 center, Jazz players have maintained that the most important tweaks they make actually have little to do with the X’s and O’s.
Instead, it’s all about getting into the proper frame of mind, of realizing that the time for test runs and consequence-free experimentation with lineups and schemes is over, that there’s a switch that needs to be flipped.
Quite simply, Rudy Gobert said, the team must channel the intensity it played with during last year’s 29-6 stretch run and be prepared to utilize that from the outset this time.
“Earlier in the preseason, it was a little easygoing. We felt like everything was going to be easy,” he said. “The thing that got us [to the playoffs] last year was the mindset. We played like it was our last chance, every game. And we need to start that way from the beginning.”
He acknowledged that maintaining such fever-pitch intensity is exceedingly difficult, considering, “You play this first game, and then you’ve got 81 more. It’s a long season.”
That said, he added, the challenge will always entail guarding against complacency.
“Human nature is, once you win 10, once you win 12, you tend to relax,” he said. “The goal is to keep your mind ready and remember that it’s a long season and every game matters.”
Which brings us back to Sacramento.
While Snyder allowed that he was “happy” with the preseason finale, because “there were things we did better [in that game] than we’d done them in the past,” he wasn’t about to gush over it.
“It’s still preseason,” he noted.
Veteran guard Alec Burks, meanwhile, said he was only taking two things away from last Thursday’s contest: learning from the mistakes made, while trying to bring the same energy this time around.
Favors reiterated that, regardless of whatever led to the Jazz’s 132-93 blowout victory, that’s not nothing to do with anything now.
“You gotta realize it was a preseason game,” he said. “I don’t know what they had going on over there, but [in] preseason, guys are still trying to find their rhythm, still trying to connect with the team. But going into the season, we got to get it started right. We gotta throw that game away and get ready for the real thing. We just gotta be prepared and ready.”
Jazz at Kings
At the Golden 1 Center, Sacramento
Tipoff • Wednesday, 8 p.m.
TV • ATTSN