How has it all gone south for the Utah Jazz? Simply put, ‘Lack of commitment.’

(Rick Bowmer | AP) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker lays up the ball as Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles (2) defends in the first half during an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

Seemingly after each of the Jazz’s particularly galling losses this season, a familiar refrain from the players has been that they’re not going to panic. But that phrase was conspicuously absent following Monday’s lethargic blowout to the lottery-bound Suns.

Oh, plenty of soul-searching words were uttered in the aftermath of this third straight defeat. What was not explicitly said, but which was no less readily apparent in spite of it, is that panic time is now officially open for business.

While there is always a tendency to overreact — for good or bad — in the moment, there’s no getting around the simple fact that this team has been more bad than good of late. So then, given that this is a team that has entertained championship aspirations, a team that at one point climbed as high as second place in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, it seems fair to ask:

How has it all gone so wrong?

“Bad defense” is the simple, straightforward, perhaps even cliché answer, but why?

Coach Quin Snyder, unprompted, began his postgame news conference Monday night by overtly challenging his players’ lack of effort.

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“There are certain games in the course of a season where you don’t play well; you lose; things happen. There’s other games that … are low-point type games. Those usually involve more than a lack of execution, but a lack of commitment to the things you need to do to win,” he said. “We’re gonna keep getting the same result if we don’t focus and execute on the defensive end.”

For what it’s worth, he didn’t get much disagreement in the locker room.

“Teams just come in here ready to play; we match their intensity for maybe a quarter or a half, and then, it’s like the pipes burst. They just get whatever they want,” said guard Donovan Mitchell. “As a collective unit, we gotta come together.”

“[Defense] has got to be who we are again. We say that we worry about defense, but that’s not who we are,” added Rudy Gobert. “… It’s not just effort, it’s being worried about the right stuff. It’s gotta be who we are. It’s our identity. It’s been our identity since I have been here, since Quin got here — we decided to be good on defense. We just have to stay who we are.”

Everybody’s disappointed in each other. We know we all gotta come ready to play harder. All of it’s team effort,” agreed Royce O’Neale. “… Everybody’s just gotta play harder, including myself. Everybody.”

Why, though? Why is the defense suddenly so incapable? Why did this Jazz team surrender an eye-popping 132 offensive rating to a middling Phoenix team?


Monday • Suns 131, Jazz 112

Saturday • Rockets 120, Jazz 110

Friday • Spurs 113, Jazz 104

Feb. 12 • Jazz 116, Heat 101

Feb. 10 • Jazz 123, Mavericks 119

Feb. 9 • Jazz 114, Rockets 113

Feb. 7 • Jazz 117, Trail Blazers 114

Feb. 5 • Nuggets 98, Jazz 95

Feb. 1 • Trail Blazers 124, Jazz 107

Jan. 30 • Nuggets 106, Jazz 100

Jan. 29 • Spurs 127, Jazz 120

Jan. 27 • Rockets 126, Jazz 117

Is it a case of simple overcorrection? That in the quest to add more firepower to a defensively stalwart but offensively overmatched group, that the front office went too far the other way?

The team doesn’t believe that, noting that they have been a top-10 defense in the league for large swaths of the season. So … what then? Was that rating a bit of pyrite — shiny but ultimately worthless fool’s gold, manufactured at the hands of a litany of mediocre opponents?

Though they maintain the belief that they are capable of high-level defense, the Jazz are exceedingly frustrated at its sudden disappearance.

“We are who we are, and obviously right now we’re not the exact team who we’ve been for a lot of this year,” said Joe Ingles. “But we know who we should be and how we can play and how we are capable of playing. It’s easy to say that when you’re not doing it — we’re obviously not doing it at the moment.”

Added Mitchell: “It’s not like we haven’t seen what we could be, we haven’t seen the chemistry and all that. Having losses like the past three especially are just like, ‘What are we doing?’… We do it in spurts, and that’s what’s frustrating. We’re there, and then I don’t know what happens.”

Well, that’s not entirely true. Pressed on what they could do better individually, players had no trouble reciting their sins in a cathartic confessional of sorts.

Mitchell rattled off one personal mistake after another: two backdoor cuts allowed; a selfish attempt at an offensive rebound that let to a runout and a dunk; a blow-by that directly contributed Gobert picking up his third foul. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year, meanwhile, noted that his communication with his teammates needs to improve, and that he could take steps to foul less. Ingles acknowledged that his perimeter containment has left much to be desired, calling the team’s overall effort in that area “embarrassing.”

So then, what now?

Gobert said some additional mental toughness is in order: “If we want to be the fifth or sixth seed, we’re tough enough. If we want to be a championship team, we’re definitely not.”

Snyder reiterated that past performance is meaningless if the effort is no longer there: “What’s happened from a results standpoint, we have to own. We have to internalize it, more than anything. There has to be a different level of commitment to the defensive end. It’s just got to become more important.”

Mitchell, though, seemed to be channeling the general temperament of the team’s fans in noting all of the aforementioned words are thoroughly meaningless unless and until there is corresponding action.

“We talk the talk, we gotta walk the walk,” he said. “… There’s nothing else to say — now it’s just about going out there and doing it. Otherwise, we’ll be home in May.”


At Vivint Smart Home Arena

Tipoff • Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.


Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM

Records • Jazz 36-21; Celtics 39-17

Last meeting • Jazz, 98-86 (Nov. 17, 2018)

About the Jazz • Utah now ranks higher in offensive rating (111.7 — ninth) than it does in defensive rating (108.3 — 13th). … The team has dropped three straights games since returning from the All-Star break, all of them at home. … Donovan Mitchell moved past Deron Williams into seventh place on the franchise’s all-time 3-pointers made list.

About the Celtics • Boston will be on the second night of a back-to-back after playing in Portland on Tuesday. … Entering Tuesday’s games, the Celtics were fifth in the league in offensive rating (112.5) and third in defense (105.8). … Former Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is averaging 17.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, while shooting 50.6% from the field and 38.3% from deep.