One by one, Jazz players and their coach expressed frustration after their latest loss to the Rockets late Saturday night, a game that was too sloppy, too inefficient on the Jazz’s part to take advantage of a gaping opportunity that was there for them. I mean, it was right there. How often is James Harden going to miss 17 of 20 shots, and 11 of 13 3-pointers?
All told, Houston made just 38 percent of its attempts.
But the Jazz could not capitalize. They could only come close, and we all know, especially the Jazz themselves, that a three-point playoff defeat is no less painful than a 32-pointer.
After three consecutive losses now, they have one more chance to stay alive, on Monday night in Game 4. If it doesn’t happen then … well, play a requiem for the eliminated. Already, the Jazz’s shot to beat the Rockets in this series is … shot.
It could still happen, but … no, no it cannot.
Donovan Mitchell talked about coming back from a zip-3 deficit, and such fantasies are not uncommon for everybody in every realm. We all have some kind of crazy hope, we all have pipe dreams. I’d like to be either the lead singer in a rock band or heavyweight champion of the world. But, no matter what I do, that ain’t happening.
Quin Snyder was keeping the faith.
“It’s how you react,” he said. “It’s more about being able to take a punch and get up, than it is [if] you’re going to get hit. It’s going to happen. it’s how you respond to it.”
The Jazz have been hit. It has happened.
Now, it’s just a matter of where the Jazz take the 10-count. They have little choice in the deal. If the Rockets show up and play to their capabilities, the Jazz will be done — either at Vivint Arena or back at Toyota Center.
Anybody who’s been paying attention knows, it’s just not agreeable to the Fates this particular postseason for the Jazz to climb a hill as steep as this. To their credit, they didn’t want to admit that after their most recent defeat, but that didn’t change the facts as they are.
In their basketball souls, deep down, they know this.
The Jazz simply are not as good as Houston. People as astute as Snyder and as savvy as GM Dennis Lindsey are fully aware. Lindsey said he is paying close attention to this series to determine where the Jazz are, individually and as a collection, and where their deficiencies are.
He could point and fire in darn near any and every direction and hit a fundamental need for improvement, including aiming a finger back at himself. The Jazz, from their stars to their role players, must improve, must be improved by subtraction and addition.
Mitchell is a great and growing player. But he’s not talented enough to do what the Jazz are asking him to do. He needs help — Snyder and Lindsey have noted the smoldering evidence.
In that way, this thumping the Jazz are absorbing should motivate the front office to make some moves in the offseason they might have otherwise been disinclined to make. Patience, for them, used to be a virtue.
Long after the crowd dispersed from Vivint Arena on Saturday night, Mitchell was still beating himself up for starting hot but finishing cold in his 34-point effort.
“I just started missing shots,” he said. “You got to hit shots. I can’t miss 16 shots in the second half.”
As is his way, Mitchell also looked forward to Monday night’s Game 4, saying: “I don’t think anybody’s going to lay [down] on Monday. … It’s an uphill battle. But we’re not going to [roll] over. We’re going to keep playing.”
Said Chris Paul: “We just try to make it hard on [Donovan].”
The Rockets are slamming that attempt into the upper deck. They’ve made everything hard on Mitchell, everything hard on every Jazz player.
“We’ve got to capitalize,” Mitchell said. “We have to take advantage of opportunities. … Unfortunately, we didn’t finish.”
No, they did not.
And now, they are all but finished.
The details of their demise are mere footnotes, best forgotten for everyone except for the decision-makers who can actually do something about what’s happening here in the days, weeks and months ahead.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.