Quin Snyder wore faded jeans.
The Jazz coach’s apparel told the story Monday, during his team’s first opportunity to rest, regroup and prepare for the next round of the NBA playoffs. The only flaw in that sentence is that Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals already took place, with Houston claiming a 110-96 victory Sunday.
Even so, Snyder’s Zen philosophy phrase of the day made sense: “Empty our cup.”
In other words, all the Jazz could do Monday was start over. They didn’t practice, explaining Snyder’s wearing something other than athletic clothing. Wednesday night’s Game 2, the next time he’ll be dressed in a suit, was more than 48 hours away.
The Jazz need that recovery time, emotionally and mentally maybe more than physically, judging by the way they looked Sunday.
“No doubt, no doubt,” forward Jae Crowder said. “We’re not making excuses, but … I think we’ll be fresher and more engaged in what we have to do to take away what they want to do on both ends of the court.”
Quickly adjusting to another opponent’s style and moving on to another series was just challenging for his players, and Snyder knew it. Those six games against Oklahoma City were demanding. The series was draining for those who merely watched it unfold, to say nothing of what it was like to play in it.
I’ve made the point that historically, the Jazz have experienced other playoff series turnarounds like the one from Friday’s Game 6 vs. OKC to Sunday’s Game 1 vs. Houston, and past teams performed decently. Being tired was not enough of an excuse for trailing the Rockets by 25 points at halftime. The Jazz could blame only themselves for not closing out the Thunder earlier, with a 25-point lead in the third quarter of Game 5.
Yet because they missed that opportunity, they had to put even more emotion into Game 6. Everything that happened Friday — Ricky Rubio’s hamstring injury in the first quarter, the Jazz’s falling behind by nine points in the second quarter, Donovan Mitchell’s scoring spree in the third quarter and OKC’s six-shot, extended possession in the final minute — made it an overwhelming night for everybody involved at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The next thing they knew, the Jazz were facing the 65-win, high-scoring Rockets. That would be a shock to anyone’s system.
Game 2 will be different, or so the Jazz hope. Snyder’s goal for Monday’s regrouping process was that his team would “be in a good place mentally to kind of absorb the things we now need to concentrate on mentally.”
He did say the word “mentally” twice. Consciously or not, he was emphasizing that the between-series rallying process is more than physical. The tradeoff for already having lost Game 1 is the Jazz having more working knowledge of the Rockets now. That will help, to a certain degree.
They’re still playing without Rubio and facing Houston guard James Harden, who scored 41 points Sunday. Most teams would promote their backup point guard to the starting lineup; it’s not as simple for the Jazz to “plug somebody in there,” Snyder said.
As for defending Harden, the strategy might be to “ask him to miss,” Snyder said. “See if he’s magnanimous enough to do you a favor.”
That approach might work as well as anything the Jazz can come up with between now and Wednesday night. They’re just happy to have that much time to figure out something.