With a minute left in the third quarter on Monday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena, Mike Conley grabbed a long rebound off a missed Toronto 3-pointer and threw the ball ahead to a sprinting Jordan Clarkson, who appeared bound for a bucket that would have cut the deficit to four points.
But with the long-armed Pascal Siakam trailing, Clarkson overthought it, hesitated, short-armed the layup, and saw the ball roll off the rim.
With the Utah Jazz unable to generate many points in their halfcourt sets, and seemingly incapable of capitalizing on their myriad transition opportunities, they saw their five-game winning streak come to an end, 101-92.
The Jazz have struggled plenty with their transition play this season — it’s just usually been in terms of stopping opponents from getting baskets, not their own inability to get them. But on Monday, Utah wound up forcing short-handed Toronto into 20 turnovers, then only managed to come away with 21 points from them.
“That’s been a strength of ours. We just weren’t able to convert on them tonight,” said coach Quin Snyder. “We bobbled the ball a couple times, just weren’t able to convert on a few of them. I don’t think we did anything wrong or there’s anything [long-term] we have to look at.”
Asked about the team’s inability to generate those easy points, Joe Ingles concurred it was an issue against Toronto, but added that failing to finish there was but a microcosm of the team’s overall struggles on the offensive end against the Raptors.
“We missed a lot of shots we have made for a lot of the year,” Ingles said. “We got a lot of good looks, and obviously if we’ve got an open shot, we’re gonna take it — everyone’s got that responsibility to take a shot if you’re open and it’s a good shot. A lot of the time we do a really good job with that. Every shot that we took, I think was good. There might be a couple [bad ones], but overall really good shots, and we’ll take ’em again on Wednesday [vs. the Thunder].”
Though the Jazz ultimately strung together enough buckets to put a 15-3 stretch together midway through the fourth quarter to rebound from a 10-point deficit and momentarily surge ahead 87-85, all the chances they let slip away prior to that (and afterward, for that matter) proved costly in the end.
In what wound up being a tight game, those empty possessions made a difference.
Of course, so, too, did their offense seizing up again in the game’s clutch moments against Toronto’s physicality. With the game hanging in the balance, a Royce O’Neale 3-point try was a good foot off-target; Ingles threw away a pass that led to a Siakam layup; Rudy Gobert could not convert from point-blank range; and Donovan Mitchell settled for a midrange floater that did not go in.
“They’re a really good defensive team. I think we did a pretty good job moving the ball. We missed some shots in the fourth, but we made some runs, we were in a position where we could win the game,” Gobert said. “They played a good game defensively. We couldn’t hit a shot or make a play when we needed it the last few minutes.”
Actually, that was the case for much of the night for most of the Jazz’s offense. The Jazz wound up shooting just 39.8% from the field for the game, and attempted only 14 free throws.
That perhaps was no surprise, as Toronto came into the game ranked second in the league in defensive rating. Then again, considering the Raptors sat out starters Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet on the second night of a back-to-back, and lost Eastern Conference Player of the Week Norman Powell to a sprained ankle in the game’s opening minutes, Utah perhaps should have been better able to capitalize.
With a few exceptions, mostly from the reserves, that didn’t happen.
On the one hand, Ingles was the most aggressive he’s been in some time, and wound up drilling 8 of 12 shots — including 4 of 8 from 3-point range — for 20 points, six assists and four rebounds. O’Neale similarly had a strong effort and finished with 15 points (despite going 2 for 7 from deep) and seven boards. Tony Bradley had some nice moments, too, with five points, four rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
For instance, Mitchell’s midrange-heavy evening saw him miss his final seven shots and finish just 4 of 16 from the field for 11 points. He did not attempt a single free throw. Asked afterward if he liked the looks he took and just missed them, or if he wished he’d made some better reads, he didn’t hesitate to select the latter option.
“Yeah, for sure. The layup at the end was stupid — definitely should have taken a different type of shot,” he said. “The biggest thing for me is continuing to find ways to get better. Nobody’s gonna be perfect. But making these mistakes in March is better than making them in April, May — maybe June.”
Meanwhile, Bojan Bogdanovic similarly could not get anything going, and tallied only five points on 2 for 8 from the field. While Conley was productive in finding his teammates in (seven assists) and on the glass (six rebounds), his shot was also off — to the tune of 4 for 12.
And Gobert had a completely ineffectual effort, as he was hampered by foul trouble, and frequently expended time and effort complaining to the referees about it. He went just 1 for 4 from the floor and finished with six points, four rebounds, two steals and a block. Utah, as a team, was outrebounded 53-34.
The Frenchman’s frustration finally boiled over with 40.6 seconds left to play, as he and Toronto forward OG Anunoby got into a confrontation that resulted in a double-ejection.
“He tried to elbow me in the face. And the guy that’s being paid to protect the players didn’t do his job,” Gobert said. “There was a little altercation, and we both got ejected, when I didn’t do anything back, pretty much. Which I don’t understand. I don’t think it makes sense to me. But next time I’ll do justice myself so the official can eject me for a reason.”
In the end, after Utah took that 87-85 lead and appeared to have the momentum, the Raptors wound up closing the game on a 16-5 run.
“We really struggled to score the last six minutes,” Snyder said. “We weren’t lacking execution per se, we just weren’t able to score. I felt like the game was flipping in our direction, and then it stopped.”