There was a surprising amount of optimism coming from the Jazz on Wednesday night, considering their 114-103 loss was their fourth in a row … and came against a Boston Celtics team playing on the second night of a back-to-back … without its All-Star point guard.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted, but we gave a really, really pure, good effort,” said coach Quin Snyder. “… Our defensive energy and our effort stayed at a good level. I felt differently about tonight’s game compared to … the last couple games.”
Fair enough. They did allow 131 points against the Suns on Monday, after all.
Still, Snyder wasn’t alone:
• “I think it was day and night compared to the last three games. We still have some work to do, but overall we put ourselves in a position where we can win the game,” said Rudy Gobert. “… For the most part, I think we are on the right path defensively.”
• “We competed defensively. I think we can hang our hats on that, but now it’s about sustaining it for 48 minutes,” added Donovan Mitchell. “I don’t think that we should be upset about our effort, just little mistakes that we can fix. They’re a good team. They are going to capitalize if you make mistakes.”
True, to some degree, as was the notion that Boston hit a fair number of tough shots.
Then again, the Celtics converted 53.6% from the field for the game (and at a 60% clip after a mediocre first quarter). They drained 42.3% of their 3-pointers — including three straight wide-open ones by Marcus Smart in the fourth quarter that effectively ended the game. Boston also scored 56 points in the paint, and got 21 second-chance points.
That’s not all a result of hitting tough shots. So again, there’s still defensive work to do.
And yet, that seems secondary to why the Jazz lost.
After that eyes-bleeding-bad opening period, the game got fun on the offensive end. All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum engaged in an epic scoring duel in the second quarter, a thrilling oh-yeah?-top-this battle between two guys exceedingly skilled at putting the ball in the basket. Tatum had 25 points at the break on 10-for-13 shooting; the fired-up Mitchell had 22 on 10 of 19.
It was a two-point game at halftime.
And in the second half? Well, Tatum scored only eight more points himself, but he got some help shouldering Boston’s scoring burden — Smart had 13 after halftime; Jaylen Brown had 12; Daniel Theis had 10.
Mitchell, meanwhile, had 15 more points to finish with a game-high 37. As for his teammates … Mike Conley did have nine after the break (to finish with 15 total), and Royce O’Neale added seven more (14 total), but some of the team’s usual complements were nowhere to be found.
Gobert, at least, has a gripe, in that he could have contributed more than his nine-point, nine-rebound effort had his teammates located him when he was open a few more times. As for the others?
Bojan Bogdanovic attempted all of eight shots, and made but one, for a mostly-invisible three-point, four-rebound night. And Joe Ingles, the man infamously moved to the bench earlier Wednesday? Three field goals attempted (zero after the first quarter) and one made in 26 minutes, 21 seconds of action — two points, two rebounds, two assists.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the offense bogged down in the fourth quarter — 21 points on 8-for-23 shooting (34.8%).
Neither Bogdanovic nor Ingles spoke to the media afterward, though their teammates and coach spoke up on their behalf, and on what they could do to help them out.
• “When we get stops, just pushing the ball and getting them easy opportunities in transition,” Conley said. “I think teams are trying to switch a lot more on the defensive end and it causes us to try to go 1-on-1, and the ball kinda sticks. And when we do that, it’s hard to get the ball around the horn.”
• “Just tell ’em to be aggressive. Sometimes they’re passing up to try and be unselfish, and that’s the great thing about this team — we have unselfish guys who want to find others,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes you gotta go out there and let ’em fly.”
Snyder, meanwhile, maintained hopefulness that they will get it turned around.
“There’s no sweeping generalizations. … We’ve got some guys that we believe in, that are gonna find it,” he said. “The message is really is really that simple: everybody just keep playing, keep competing, play together, play hard, and play defense.”