The Triple Team: The Utah Jazz lose a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad game to the Pistons

Detroit Pistons guard Saben Lee (38) blocks a shot by Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 126-116 loss to the Detroit Pistons from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Unacceptable. At every level.

The Jazz lost a 22-point lead to the 8-win Detroit Pistons.

They gave up 78 points in the second half.

They allowed yet another player (Cade Cunningham) to get a career high by a significant distance.

They allowed the worst offensive team in the NBA to score 126 points and have a 126 offensive rating.

It’s not okay. It’s not reflective of a championship-caliber team. It’s not reflective of a playoff team. For every single team in the league this would be a disappointing loss. Even the Orlando Magic would be like “whoa, boy, we really let that one get out of hand.”

To quote Quin Snyder:

Every single player in that locker room should be embarrassed. Every single one made horrible defensive efforts that contributed to his team having no chance at winning this game.

The Jazz were beaten by a team that had this offensive strategy — again, a strategy that has, to this point, resulted in the worst offense in the entire NBA:

I get that they didn’t have Rudy Gobert; they can’t play this poorly without him. Saddiq Bey shoots 37% on the season. The Jazz let him shoot 10-14 from the field. Trey Lyles is awful — awful! Pistons fans hate him! And he scored 14. Cory Joseph averages seven points a game, the Jazz let him score 16.

Finally, I’m concerned about the mental strength of this team. Look, I understand that runs happen in the NBA. And honestly, over the course of Snyder’s history, they’ve actually had one of the league’s best records against under .500 teams — they’re better at that than you’d expect.

But my goodness, when they start a slide, they really slide. Last year’s Game 6 loss to the Clippers was a perfect example, when they gave up a 25-point lead in a matter of minutes. Same thing happened tonight. They honestly looked like they’d forgotten how to play basketball — see point No. 3 of this Triple Team.

After that game, pundits the world over called the Jazz an “unserious franchise.” Said that, until they actually did something in the playoffs, were to be written off forever, not worth paying attention to.

There’s not a lot of evidence that says the pundits are wrong. There’s more evidence that they’re right.

There’s still hope, but the hope lies in the Jazz making a change.

2. Are Hassan Whiteside and Royce O’Neale injured? Or just bad defensively?

Hassan Whiteside is coming off a concussion. On Saturday, he told reporters he still had a slight headache, but that he didn’t want to make excuses. Royce O’Neale was on the injury report against Toronto with patellar tendonitis, but maybe that was just because the team wanted to rest everyone vs. Toronto.

As I write this, this video of Whiteside screwing up has 2100 RTs. You know, I get how mistakes are made on the outlet pass. I’m not that worried about that. I am worried about him actively not trying after — Mike Conley doesn’t cover himself in glory either.

Or on this rebound: really great effort, Hassan!

Whiteside at least has a reputation as a poor defender. O’Neale, somehow, has seen campaigns for the all-defensive teams. And I’m sorry, you can’t be all-defense if you get crossed over this easily.

There are at least 100 players in the NBA who defend that better. That he’s the Jazz’s best perimeter defensive option on Cunningham is damning.

It’s an easy and-one here.

I don’t understand O’Neale’s positioning or closeout on this play. Donovan’s down low sinking in to prevent the lob, which means Royce has to play weak-side help defense. But he’s way too far in: I suppose he wants to be ready for the rebound? But it’s a pretty easy pass to the corner, and then O’Neale’s closeout is gross. I guess he’s trying to prevent the extra pass, but, well, Cory Joseph can shoot. Just prevent the corner 3 here.

If they’re hurt, they shouldn’t be playing. Cause right now, if they’re playing, they’re hurting the team.

And if they’re not hurt?

For one, at this point, I am extremely uncomfortable with the idea of relying on Whiteside in the playoffs. That might seem unfair, as he’s had about 10 good Jazz weeks and about 2 bad ones. However, that doesn’t count the number of weeks he’s had as a bad defensive center before this year — well in the hundreds. The non-Gobert minutes are too important to trust to this easily-exploitable big man.

I am also extremely uncomfortable with the idea of O’Neale as the Jazz’s primary on-ball defender. He just struggles too much against the league’s good guards — and, well, every playoff team has good guards.

3. Do you guys even know what defense you’re playing?

As I watched the film from the loss, there were just a shocking number of possessions where the Jazz just didn’t know what kind of defense they were playing.

It makes sense to switch this Joseph/Lyles pick-and-pop... but Mitchell reacts way too late, like he’s planning on staying with Joseph. Are you gonna switch, or no?

I just have no idea what is happening on this play. Does Royce think they’re in a zone? If so, he’s the only one who thinks this. Why doesn’t he follow Cunningham? Should Whiteside be in that spot? Does it seem like he wants Bogdanovic to follow him? I don’t get it.

Same thing with this play. Does Hassan think they’re in a zone? That’s the only potential reason for him to just, uh, not follow Lyles as he goes up and sets the screen. And even then, Mitchell’s probably overcompensating for the problem.

That’s a bad, bad breakdown.

On one hand, I guess Gobert’s MVP case was made this week. On the other, what killed the Jazz last year was having zero ability to defend without Gobert — if he was off the court, or if he was pulled to the corner. And through half the season, the Jazz have made zero progress in addressing this issue.