Derrick Favors was back in the starting lineup Monday night for the Jazz.
Alas, some other familiar faces were back, too — namely, a poor start, an abundance of turnovers, lackluster 3-point shooting and generally uninspired defense.
The combination of those added up to a few other things now uncomfortably recognizable to Utah fans — a loss to the Indiana Pacers (by a 121-88 margin) which occurred at Vivint Smart Home Arena (where the team dropped to 2-6).
One night after an encouraging victory in Sacramento that snapped a three-game losing streak, the team was once again frustrated by a recurrence of the same old problems.
“The way we play, the way we practice, the things we do behind the scenes that none of you guys see — we know we’re doing the right things,” said forward Joe Ingles. “… Our guys are professionals, we know what we need to do to get ready for a game, but we haven’t been able to translate that very often over to the actual games.
“If we’d worked it out [why that is],” he added, “we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about it, would we?”
But if the “why” of it all remains a mystery, the “what” was entirely too predictable.
First off, the Jazz quickly fell behind 9-2. Five turnovers committed in the game’s first five minutes helped Indiana build a 20-12 advantage. Meanwhile, Utah’s defensive disinterest in contesting Indiana’s midrange jumpers enabled the Pacers to shoot 73.7 percent in the opening quarter, 52.2 percent in the first half, and 58.3 percent for the game.
The team’s 3-point shooting remains woefully inadequate as well. Beyond simply not making the attempts they took (Utah hit just 3 of 13 in the opening half for a 23.1-percent conversion rate), the ones the team refused to take (such as Royce O’Neale, starting again in place of the injured Donovan Mitchell, consistently driving in from beyond the arc) negatively impacted the offensive spacing.
After a brief long-range spurt in the third quarter, when they made four shots from beyond the arc, the deep threat again disappeared in the final quarter, as the Jazz finished 8 for 31 (25.8 percent) for the game.
“I think in any situation, we just need to keep working. We all expect more from ourselves. Our guys are competing. They care. We have to keep working,” said coach Quin Snyder. “There’s no magic when you have a game like we did tonight. You look at it, learn from it and try to better the next time out. Like I said, there’s just no one thing we point to, we just have to play better, and we have to keep working. Keep grinding on those things until we play better.”
Indiana first began pulling away midway through the second quarter. With Rudy Gobert assigned to the Pacers’ Myles Turner, the latter simply camped out in the deep midrange and drilled one open shot after another as the Frenchman sagged off, fearful of being driven past on closeouts.
In the third quarter, the Pacers moved their attack inside, consistently going right at Gobert and Favors, and racking up 54 points in the paint in the process.
Indiana’s offense managed 30 or more points in three of the quarters. Utah scored 25 in the opening period, but that turned out to be its highest-scoring period.
“Winning games is getting stops,” said Jae Crowder. “I don’t remember the last time we had three stops in a row.”
The Jazz’s forte Sunday in Sacramento was its team-wide balance. On Monday, though, that was Indiana’s calling card. The Pacers saw seven players reach double-digits in scoring, led by Doug McDermott’s 21 off the bench.
As for Utah?
Favors had a team-high 13, Gobert added 12, and Ingles contributed 10. And that was pretty much it.
Ricky Rubio, so aggressively efficient in racking up needed buckets a day before, scored only six on Monday on 2-of-8 shooting.
Crowder said said the Jazz “just didn’t that that right energy, that juice to win the game.”
But as the team prepares for another three-game stretch on the road, starting Wednesday in Brooklyn, he vowed everyone would keep fighting.
“There’s no sense in hanging our heads and feeling sorry for ourselves. I don’t feel sorry for nobody out here,” he said. “We’re just in the thick of the schedule right now, we’re in the thick of playing not like we want to play. I just feel like we can’t hang our heads. We gotta keep playing and keep grinding it out.”