Turnover-plagued Jazz fall under .500 with 97-88 loss at Phoenix

Utah Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha (22) loses the ball as Phoenix Suns forward Josh Jackson, left, pursues during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Phoenix • Before Wednesday night’s tipoff, Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder cautioned that beating the Phoenix Suns twice in the preseason meant little for the prospect of beating them in the regular season.

“It’s totally different,” he said. “I don’t think it factors in.”

No kidding.

The Jazz were unrecognizable from the team that easily batted around the Suns in Talking Stick Resort Arena earlier this month in the preseason. On this visit the team was sluggish, couldn’t shoot or was gun-shy, and took its second ugly road loss, 97-88, in as many nights.

But whereas the previous night, Utah had fallen to a formidable Clippers team, the Suns team that frustrated them into 24 turnovers and two sub-20-point quarters on the evening had fired their head coach days before.

“They were the more aggressive team,” Snyder said. “We saw it in the offensive glass. We saw it in how they went for loose balls. And they attacked.”

For the Jazz (2-3), it took too long to ramp up energy playing their fourth game in six nights.

It’s a head-scratcher for a team that has postseason ambitions but hasn’t won on the road in three tries, and has shown severe struggles on offense in their past two games. While Rodney Hood, returning for the first time in three games, provided a scoring boost with 22 points, much of the cast around him looked exasperated when trying to get baskets.

Even Snyder had trouble containing his frustrating, shouting, “Shoot it!” across the court as Joe Ingles hesitated on an open look.

“We gotta give ourselves a chance,” Hood said. “It was a learning experience. But it was too hard to claw back in it.”

Offensively, the Jazz picked up in Phoenix where they left off in Los Angeles.

It took 21 minutes and nine missed attempts for Utah to hit its first 3-pointer, off the fingertips of Hood. The bench had pronounced scoring struggles, only scoring nine points and not notching a field goal for the first half (by contrast, the Suns bench finished with 38 points).

The most troubling development was in turnovers, which had been a problem. Utah had a season-high in turnovers, seven coming from Ricky Rubio. Phoenix scored 27 points off turnovers, a dramatic reversal from when Utah forced 31 from the Suns in the preseason.

Snyder was also concerned by Phoenix’s 16 offensive rebounds, which led to 17 second-chance points.

“You spot a team 40 extra possessions, you’re going to to have to have a monumental night shooting the ball to win,” Snyder said. “We obviously didn’t have that either.”

It was an immediate slump: Phoenix led by as much as 17 in the second quarter. Things picked up toward the end of the half, and Utah came within three points. It was almost a one-point game before halftime: Rubio had a breakaway layup opportunity, but missed it after being contested by Tyler Ulis.

The Suns went on a 5-0 run to end the half, then T.J. Warren (who infamously was in the Dante Exum collision in the preseason) scored eight straight points, finishing with 27 total.

It was hard to catch up after that.

The Jazz starters did make one late push, and the game held at an eight-point gap for a while as Utah searched for points. But Devin Booker closed the door on the Jazz, hitting a 3-pointer and then banking in a layup in the final two minutes to ensure Phoenix’s second straight win to start interim coach Jay Triano’s tenure.

Utah has the benefit of a home-heavy schedule coming up with eight of their next nine games at Vivint Smart Home Arena. But they have plenty of questions to take with them on the heels of two unsatisfactory performances.

“We care too much about the other end of the court to go to the other end and not get shots up,” Hood said. “We felt it. We just gotta get through.”