Social media was awash with irate Utah Jazz fans on Monday night, insisting that the NBA’s referees had screwed them over with a series of horrible calls — or at least one — down the stretch of an eventual one-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Rudy Gobert was no fan of the “inadvertent whistle” the refs blew to check for goaltending, which arguably took possession away from the Jazz, leading to a jump ball the Grizz won, which led to Jaren Jackson Jr.’s wide-open, game-winning 3.
But he also wasn’t blaming the defeat on the refs.
“Just a bad call. I don’t want to put the game on that,” said Gobert. “… Just a lot of small things that add up and end up in a loss.”
Thing is, those “small things” are quickly becoming big things, given the frequency with which they happen, and the deleterious impact they continue to have on the Jazz.
Surely, it’s not shocking at this point that too many offensive rebounds surrendered, too many turnovers committed, not enough transition defense played, and a lack of urgency and focus were the primary culprits.
“We’re giving up too many possessions [via] transition defense and defensive rebounding,” said coach Quin Snyder. “They scored half their points in transition and on the offensive glass. … If we have the right focus in those two areas, we’re not in the position that we’re in.
“We’re just not in those situations if we take care of things we can control.”
Fourteen turnovers committed by the Jazz, leading to 24 points for Memphis.
Sixteen more offensive rebounds allowed, this time leading to 22 second-chance points.
Eighteen fast-break points surrendered — a total that Snyder figures is probably a dozen lower than what it ought to be.
“Sometimes in those situations, you learn the hard way,” Snyder noted. “It’s something that we’re going to need to be able to deal with. It’s just that simple.”
“There’s really not much else to say — we’ve got to do it, or stuff like this happens,” agreed Donovan Mitchell.
The frustration in the postgame media interview room was palpable. Mostly because the Jazz all acknowledged it never should have gotten to the point that the call with 14.1 seconds remaining could hurt them as much as it did. After all, they were up six with 1:10 to play and couldn’t sustain it.
Mental lapses (”Our focus on competing through the little things and executing isn’t there,” said Snyder) both before and after proved costly.
Mike Conley and Mitchell addressed the before:
“Before that six-point lead, we had opportunities to push it out a little bit, and we just never really got over that hump,” Conley said. “We let them hang around too long.”
“We let up, you know?” added Mitchell. “We just can’t let up, that’s the biggest thing — we gotta keep our foot on the gas.”
Gobert handled the after: “A minute left, we have three straight possessions where we don’t execute, where we don’t know what we’re doing offensively. And three possessions in the row we give up offensive rebounds,” he said. “It’s just too many mistakes for a team that has the kind of experience that we have. It’s totally unacceptable that we don’t get on the same page offensively and we don’t rebound at the end of the game.”
And so, in the end, they were all left to lament the plays they wished they could have back.
Mitchell was despondent about turning the ball over with 17.7 seconds remaining “on a move I’ve made a thousand times.” Gobert chided himself for over-helping on Ja Morant, mistakenly believing that Conley needed help and, in the process, leaving JJJ open for what proved to be the game-winner. Conley noted that “we’re all guilty of being stuck in the backcourt yelling at a ref” rather than running back on defense.
And Bojan Bogdanovic — whose incendiary fourth quarter gave Utah a huge push into the lead, but whose ill-advised, heat-check, fadeaway 3 try with 51.4 seconds to go cost them some crucial points — expressed annoyance that it’s the same old issues that keep popping up.
“At the end, it again came [down] to our energy and effort,” he said. “…Our focus and our effort have got to be way better, especially on transition defense and defensive rebounds. [I can’t believe] we’re talking about this again.”