Gordon Monson: Utah Jazz must find what’s been lost in their restart... and soon

(Kim Klement | Pool via AP) Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) dribbles between Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles (2) and forward Georges Niang (31) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The Utah Jazz have a hole in their hull.

And three games into the NBA restart, they can’t seem to fill it up.

Which is to say, they cannot shoot straight, and thus, they are listing hard to the left.

And it’s worse than just that. They aren’t playing much defense, either.

The two seem to be connected, mentally and physically, leading to another unsatisfactory effect: Bad aim, bad resistance, bad results.

“When you’re not making shots,” said coach Quin Snyder, “it becomes more difficult to defend at the other end.”

Which culminates in a predictable demise.

A question stirs: How long will it last? And another: How long can the Jazz stay afloat?

As Bojan Bogdanovic was lost for the season, a chorus of negativity came from observers around the NBA regarding the Jazz’s chances of making up for that loss. A year ago, the Jazz struggled to find enough scorers — shooters, in particular — to propel them toward deep success in the playoffs. That was plain and clear to them, too, nudging them to give up some of their defensive prowess to obtain more firepower.

Bogdanovic was a big part of that.

Now, they have neither him, nor their former top-rated defense.

That’s all been on display in two defeats and even in a win since the NBA returned, games in which the Jazz have shot the ball as though they were heaving heavy lumber onto a conveyor belt. The accuracy from deep has been significantly wayward: 25%.

They’ve hit a total of 28 of 108 3-pointers against New Orleans, Oklahoma City and the Lakers.

Donovan Mitchell’s fix for that deficiency?

“The biggest thing for us is to continue to take them,” he said.

Taking them isn’t the problem. Making them is.

Curious because much of the Jazz’s approach to solving Bogdanovic’s absence has been, in part, to load and launch from distance. The other part is either dumping the ball into Rudy Gobert or allowing Mitchell, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson to get into the paint for sure-and-secure attempts. There’s nothing particularly unique about that, considering the two favored spots from which to shoot league-wide are around the hoop and from deep.

Even without Bogdanovic’s 20.2 points per game, the Jazz have some capability there.

It’s just that it hasn’t been evident.

They were the NBA’s top shooting team before the stoppage — and there was plenty of company alongside he who has been lost: Mitchell, Clarkson, Conley, Joe Ingles, Georges Niang, Royce O’Neale among others.

But, so far, in the return, the 3-point shots are veering and clanking.

Ingles is 3 of 11, Niang 1 for 13, Clarkson 4 of 22, O’Neale 5 of 16, Conley 6 of 19, Mitchell 6 of 18.

And the defense hasn’t come to the rescue. In those same games, opponents are hitting 42%, 53% and 50% overall.

After Monday’s loss to the Lakers, Snyder said: “The shots we got were good looks. We didn’t make them. … We’re going to have to make more shots to win.”

It’s the simplest — and truest — of basketball analysis.

Even with the absence of Bogdanovic, as mentioned, the Jazz shooting the ball so poorly is surprising. That’s the very thing they’ve practiced so thoroughly since getting back together a month ago at their practice facility and in the bubble. With Bogdanovic, the Jazz had made better than 38% of their deep balls. Their opponents made just 35%.

A distinct advantage.

Not anymore.

Not yet.

What it all means remains to be seen.

It could be that the Jazz will reassert their flow, their precision in the five remaining regular-season games. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t.

If they don’t, they have little chance to do anything memorable in the playoffs. They must be decisive in their possessions, avoid turnovers, create driving lanes, get to the rim, hit spot-up shooters, make shots.

They’ve done little of that.

It’s been good to see the Jazz on the floor again, good to watch competitive basketball after such a long hiatus, during and after which almost nothing is taken for granted anymore. But the idea that the Jazz would somehow be reenergized in the weird mix of a strange season, that they would proficiently reform by way of effort and conscientiousness, even without Bogdanovic, has been put into deep-cold doubt.

“This is a team that’s going to have to find itself,” Snyder said the other night.

To accomplish that, they’ll have to find their space, find their patience, find their range, find their confidence, find their touch, find their resolve, find what has not been found in the restart so far.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.