The one positive to come out of Thursday night’s Jazz-Pacers fracas and its four ejections — aside from the total absence of follow-up suspensions — is that it managed to distract a few fans from how dreadful Utah played for most of the game.
The Jazz themselves, of course, could not brush it aside so easily.
Even after they’d finished opining about the ills of fake-tough-guy opponents and the benefits of teammates rushing to one another’s aid and the scourge of laissez-faire referees allowing physicality and frustration to escalate and accumulate before finally spiraling out of control, there was still self-awareness of the problem(s) du jour that precipitated the 111-100 defeat.
“I’m not gonna put the fact that we lost the game on that. We did a lot of things that we know we can fix,” said Donovan Mitchell. “… There’s a lot of things we didn’t do correctly. I don’t want that [skirmish] to distract from things we have to do as a group.”
That was twice in the span of a few seconds that he mentioned “a lot of things” gone wrong and in need of improvement.
And it wasn’t hyperbole, either.
The pathway from the perimeter to the paint may as well have been a red carpet, for all the resistance the Jazz put up against Indiana’s drives.
And when the Jazz did get a stop, they too frequently gave Indy another bite at the apple, on account of surrendering roughly a million offensive rebounds.
Which limited Utah’s own number of possessions.
That, in turn, only served to highlight how inadequate the ball movement was, and how it led to stagnant offense.
As a result, open shots that went in very early mostly did not later.
And turnovers — particularly near the rim — led directly to poor transition defense.
“It’s a lot of compounding things,” Mitchell pointed out, not incorrectly.
The interconnectedness of their assorted ailments was particularly troublesome against Indiana.
Rudy Gobert, for instance, followed a lengthy diatribe about the officials allowing the physicality to get out of control by noting that the Jazz did not bring enough, well, physicality.
“We let them get way too many offensive rebounds. They were the more aggressive team,” he said. “We made some runs, but, you know, we couldn’t get the stops we needed.”
Bojan Bogdanovic, in Friday’s follow-up practice, cited a lack of “collective effort” against the Pacers, particularly on one end of the court.
“Our defense has got to be better. Especially transition defense,” he said. “We’ve got to be a little smarter on how to use the Euro fouls to stop the fast break. If we don’t have the defense set, it’s easier for opponents to attack us.”
And Mitchell explained how one impacted the other.
“We, as a group, didn’t necessarily guard very well. And even when we did, we gave up another rebound [afterward], and then they would score,” he said. “It’s hard to play 24 or 22 seconds of great defense, and then they get a rebound, and then [you have to] do it again.”
Coach Quin Snyder, naturally, found issues everywhere, noting “there was breakdowns in a lot of different areas,” pretty much ticking off one by one all the aforementioned problems, then ultimately concluding quite simply, “We weren’t playing well.”
In spite of it all, though, there was a certain counterintuitive confidence in the aftermath, a sense that knowing what they’d done wrong — and not letting it be obfuscated by all the peripheral histrionics — was half the battle headed into Saturday’s matinee matchup against Miami.
“We got hit in the face with this game before [the incident] happened,” Mitchell said. “We were doing so many things not the right way. … But we can fix it. We did a lot of things that we can fix.”