It was decidedly not the way Utah wanted to finish its four-games-in-eight-days journey. Several players dressed quietly postgame, then slipped out of the locker room without uttering a word. Joe Ingles said he had nothing to say and stalked off.
Still, at least a few were able to find some perspective after completing their first multi-game trip of the season 3-1.
“You can’t win all of ’em, though we want to. Three out of four — we’ll take it every time,” said forward Jae Crowder. “You gotta learn from the good and learn from the bad. We’ll definitely try to learn from this and move forward.”
OK, so let’s start with the good, then.
First off, the Jazz showed their offense can be a force. While the trip started off with a meager 100-point effort against the Rockets, that was followed with a season-high 132 vs. the Pelicans, then 113 against the Mavericks, and 125 vs. the T-wolves.
Donovan Mitchell scored 20-plus points in each of the four games. Rudy Gobert finished the trip with three straight games of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Further, the supporting cast demonstrated it can be a significant component of the offense. Crowder and Dante Exum had 18 and 14 points, respectively, in Minnesota. Georges Niang and Grayson Allen had crucial stretches vs. Dallas with 13 and 11.
“Our bench is good when they think collectively, and that was what happened against Dallas,” coach Quin Snyder said before Wednesday’s trip finale in Minneapolis. “We got a great effort ’cause they approached it as ‘us’ and not as ‘me.’ That’s one of the things that continues to get solidified.”
Ricky Rubio, meanwhile, said the players’ familiarity with one another is a major strength.
“It’s the beginning of the season, but we know each other, so we just have to pick it up a little bit,” he said. “It feels like it’s the middle of the season already and it’s only the first couple weeks, just because we know each other really well and we pick things up really quick and we’ve got really good players.”
So, onto the bad, then.
That one’s pretty simple, really — no one is happy with where the team’s defense is.
After starting the trip strong by allowing just 89 points to the (admittedly short-handed) Rockets, the Jazz subsequently surrendered 111 to the Anthony Davis-less Pelicans, 104 to the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks, and 128 to the (also short-handed) Wolves.
There have been strong stretches, but entirely too many lulls. Perimeter defenders are getting hung up on screens and blown by far too often. And when Gobert is off the floor, opponents drive the lane with impunity. That was especially apparent vs. Minnesota when the center was whistled for a pair of dubious first-quarter fouls.
“We talked about how we want to make our mark with our defense, and [Wednesday] we weren’t able to do that,” Snyder said after the loss to the Wolves. “We weren’t able to get stops. That’s what cost us the game.”
Gobert added that Utah has the potential to be a very good team, but that it must regain its defensive identity in order to do so.
“We can control our destiny. When we start a game the right way, usually it ends the right way,” he said. “We’re a defensive-minded team, and we should never forget that. It doesn’t matter who we play — we should never give up 128 points.”
Yes, the trip concluded with disappointment. But the coach is hopeful that his team will be able to channel that into something productive.
“It’s obviously harder when you lose, but maybe easier to get better,” Snyder said. “That’s what we need to do with this, and that’s what we should take with us. There’s a lot of things we need to do better.”
And even though he came out on the wrong end of the equation Wednesday, Rubio wouldn’t trade his new team for his old one.
“I love it here — just a great atmosphere and a great group guys who come together to win,” he said. “I think we’re building something special.”
JAZZ VS. GRIZZLIES
At Vivint Smart Home Arena
Tipoff • Friday, 7 p.m.
TV • AT&T SportsNet
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 4-3; Grizzlies 4-2
Last meeting • Grizzlies, 92-84 (Oct. 22)
About the Jazz • Donovan Mitchell sat out the waning minutes of Wednesday’s game in Minnesota due to right hamstring tightness. An MRI on Thursday was negative, but he will sit out Friday’s game. … Utah had won its first four road games this season before losing to the Wolves; conversely, the Jazz are 0-2 at home thus far. …
About the Grizzlies • Memphis is coming off a 107-95 victory over the Wizards on Tuesday. … Mike Conley had 23 points and seven rebounds, and Marc Gasol added 18 points and 13 rebounds in the win vs. Utah. … Conley is leading the team in scoring with 19.0 ppg, but is shooting just 38.1 percent from the field.