Utah Jazz can’t contain hot-shooting Phoenix Suns in 131-111 loss at Vivint Arena

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) walks up court in the second half during an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

At Monday morning’s pregame shootaround, Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic lamented the team “worrying about the wrong [expletive] — we gotta start with our defense.” Joe Ingles agreed “the coaches can’t do it for us.” And coach Quin Snyder conceded that “[lack of] containment has been a theme.”

And then, in Monday night’s game, they allowed the Suns to shoot 56.3% from the field for the game, to score 66 points in the paint, and to make 60% of their 3-point attempts.

And so, what was unthinkable pregame became all-too-recognizable as the clock ticked along, as the Jazz fell 131-111 to a team bound for the lottery.

Their third straight defeat since returning from the All-Star break dropped the Jazz to 36-21 on the season.

“We’re gonna keep getting the same result if we don’t focus and execute on the defensive end,” a visibly frustrated Snyder said afterward. “… What we did tonight wasn’t good, obviously. That’s an understatement on a lot of levels.”

So nonexistent was Utah’s defense at times that not even translating overexuberant referee whistles into 43 free-throw attempts, and not even a 38-point explosion from Donovan Mitchell could salvage things.

The perimeter containment issues were apparent from the outset, as several communication breakdowns in the opening minutes enabled Phoenix to make six of its first seven shots — most of them in the paint, and most of them wide-open.

The Jazz could at least keep pace early, and indeed surged ahead, owing to a 6-for-9 performance from 3-point range in the first period.

Problem is, Utah’s deep shooting could not keep pace with its defensive errors.

Utah went only 3 of 17 beyond the arc over the next 36 minutes, while the Suns continued to drive the lane with impunity and to convert their own open looks from deep for the rest of the game.

“I thought we started off reasonably well tonight and kinda slowly trickled down to where we didn’t want to be,” said Joe Ingles. “It’s embarrassing for us.”

There was no shortage of embarrassments, to be sure.

In one third-quarter sequence, no Jazz player ever bothered to pick up Phoenix point guard Ricky Rubio, who took advantage of the overly obliging welcome back by moseying into the paint and dropping in an easy bucket; then, on the Suns’ next possession, Mikal Bridges got by his man at the 3-point line, then continued unabated to the hoop for a lay-in.

Later in the period, Phoenix drilled 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions — all of them with nary a defender within reach — to expand the advantage to double-digits.

In the fourth, after the Jazz coughed up one of their 20 turnovers, All-Star guard Devin Booker fired up a deep 3 — and while it missed, no Jazz player bothered to box out Bridges, who flew in from the weak side for a putback jam that made it a 15-point game and sent a contingent of Jazz faithful to the exits in an effort to at least beat traffic.

Both Booker and Rubio registered double-doubles for Phoenix, the former turning in 24 points and 10 assists, the latter 22 points, 11 dimes and seven rebounds in his first game back in Salt Lake City since being allowed to leave as an unrestricted free agent this past summer.

Utah’s defense surrendered 30-plus points in each of the game’s final three quarters.

Bojan Bogdanovic added 16 points for the Jazz, but saw his shooting slump continue, as he hit only 4 of 10 shots. Jordan Clarkson added 14 off the bench, while Rudy Gobert had 13 points, but only eight rebounds.

“It seems like a long, long time ago that we won a game in Phoenix because we defended,” Snyder said, referencing a 96-95 win over the Suns in the team’s fourth game of the season. “We’re a long way from that right now.”