Maybe Monday was just one of those random variance bad-shooting nights for the Utah Jazz.
It could also be easy to chalk it up to tired legs, with the end of the regular season coming — though they’d partly have themselves to blame for that, given their failure to close out Saturday’s win against the Rockets early like they could have.
No, Monday’s 119-116 loss to the Golden State Warriors effectively came down to three season-long problem areas: too many turnovers, too little transition defense, and struggles against a switching defense.
Jordan Clarkson so very nearly made it all not matter — scoring 24 of his 41 points in the fourth, as Utah rallied and even briefly took the lead in the final seconds.
Problem was, those three trouble spots beforehand wound up digging the Jazz an 18-point hole to begin with.
“A couple of things that we know we need to do to have that competitive effort turn into a win,” a palpably frustrated Quin Snyder said after the game.
A big cause for concern was the Jazz’s play vs. Golden State’s defense.
Against drop-big schemes, the Jazz can get Rudy Gobert rolling to the rim, sucking in defenders concerned about the lob threat, and generating open looks for shooters.
However, they have continually struggled against opponents who simply switch positionally 1 through 5 against pick-and-rolls — known in league parlance as “going black” — as the Warriors did with Kevon Looney and Draymond Green.
Following the win against Houston, several members of the Jazz said they felt like they were making progress against such switching. It didn’t look that way on Monday, though.
The Warriors generated better closeouts, forced tougher looks, and saw Utah post a subpar night from beyond the arc.
The Jazz were a great 5 for 12 from deep in the first quarter, then went 1 for 11 in the second, and 2 for 10 in the third. They finished 13 of 44 (29.5%) from 3-point range for the game.
“Obviously, we could have done a much better job, and it’s on us to keep working and keep getting better and try to punish the teams are running ‘black’ on us,” said Gobert — who had all of three points in the entire first half, then scored four in the first 2.5 minutes of the third quarter. “We’ve got to keep getting better and keep finding different ways to get easy baskets at the rim. We’ve got a lot of great shooters, we have a lot of the size, so we’ve got to make it harder on them to black on us, and punish them.”
Perhaps the more problematic area, however, were the live-ball foul-ups that led to points the other way.
“It’s not about our offense [against switching],” said Bojan Bogdanovic. “We did a great job [there], we scored  points. We had a lot of turnovers.”
Well … the 15 turnovers they finished with aren’t a particularly egregious total for a full game; then again, most of those came in the first three quarters. Cutting out the miscues once they were already down a dozen and a half helped spur the rally, but it was those errors that made the comeback necessary in the first place.
Furthermore, those turnovers become compounded when they lead to transition opportunities for the opposition.
And that was precisely the case Monday at the Chase Center in San Francisco.
Those 15 Utah miscues led to 26 Golden State points. For comparative purposes, the Jazz got six points off 10 Warriors turnovers.
“When we turn over the ball, it’s tough to play defense — especially against this kind of team, where you have Steph Curry shooting from everywhere,” Bogdanovic added. “That was probably the reason why we lost the game.”
Clarkson found himself concurring.
“I mean, that’s probably the biggest thing for us, is taking care of the ball. When we have a chance to score and make plays for each other, the game’s easy for us. We’re never out of games,” he said. “I think we was down close to almost 20 tonight, [then] we start taking care of the ball — we didn’t really have that many turnovers towards the end of the game — we was converting, and we cut the lead down that fast. So that’s probably the biggest emphasis playing them.”
Maybe. As it turns out, the Jazz were left with a whole load of “maybes” on Monday night.
Maybe if they don’t allow a late offensive rebound that gave Steph Curry a second crack at a game-winning 3, none of this matters. But they did.
Maybe if a foul is called on one or two of Clarkson’s shot attempts in the final 30 seconds or so, none of this becomes the conversation. But they weren’t.
Maybe if Clarkson’s corner fadeaway in the corner goes down, it’s an entirely different narrative. But it didn’t.
Maybe if the Jazz move the ball more (just 14 assists) attack the rim more, take care of the ball more, hustle back more …
But they didn’t.
“We had some some turnovers that ended up in easy buckets for them. That’s what I told our guys,” Snyder said simply.
And that pretty much says it all.