Utah Jazz swap out negative narratives in off-kilter loss to Lakers

After lackluster defense has dominated the headlines of late, the Jazz’s top-rated offense falls victim to selfish decision-making against an L.A. team that came in allowing opponents to score at will.

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) is defended by Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley (20) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. The Lakers won 101-95. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

After several days of back-and-forth self-inflicted drama played out in the media about whether the Utah Jazz’s perimeter defenders are doing enough to help out Rudy Gobert, the team was glad to quiet the noise with a nice win Sunday night in Denver.

Alas, the shrieking klaxons returned Monday night in Los Angeles … but at least this time the Jazz were setting off some different alarms?

Oh, there are still questions about the defense, to be sure, given that the Lakers’ ridiculously effective small-ball fourth quarter powered by Stanley Johnson couldn’t help but elicit memories of the way Terance Mann and the Clippers eviscerated Utah’s postseason hopes last June.

And yet, the more prevailing storyline Monday entailed all the glaring errors made in a listless, lifeless offensive performance against a team that came in absolutely hemorrhaging points to its opponents.

Los Angeles entered the matchup on a three-game losing streak, having surrendered 127 points to the Grizzlies, 125 to the Kings, and 133 to the Nuggets.

And then the Jazz managed 95 points, their second-lowest total of the season. And they shot 36.9% from the field. And 26.1% from 3-point range. And pretty much had zero cohesion and rhythm in the first, second, and fourth quarters.

There are times when Utah will have a rough offensive outing, and the team will note afterwards that it was actually satisfied with how they played, but the shots simply didn’t go in. This was not one of those times.

“We made it harder on ourselves than it needed to be,” said coach Quin Snyder.

“We were just forcing a little bit, not finding each other, and making it harder on ourselves,” added Rudy Gobert.

“We had a stretch there where we made the game a lot tougher than it needed to be,” concluded Mike Conley.

Hmmmmm … it feels like there’s a theme emerging.

Actually, Donovan Mitchell didn’t entirely play along, though. While he noted that the offense “got stagnant tonight, it definitely did,” he also maintained that he was “OK with most” of his looks, and that, well, if the Jazz had simply made more shots, they would have won.

“I don’t know the last time me, Bojan, and JC missed all of our 3s,” he said. “If we make a few of ‘em, it changes the game.”

True enough — it’s not exactly a frequent occurrence that Mitchell goes 0 for 8, Bogdanovic 0 for 4, and Clarkson 0 for 6 from deep, all on the same night. (With Rudy Gay adding a 1-of-8 performance for good measure.)

Then again, given how many times the Jazz ignored Gobert parked in the paint, his defender effectively sealed off, in order to jack up a low-odds, hero-ball attempt from beyond the arc; and given how often they chose to forgo the tried-and-true blender in exchange for an isolation look, that’s not much of an excuse.

“I thought we had too many really tough shots,” said Snyder, who added that the Jazz were could have done with making better reads and moving the ball quicker.

Gobert added that Utah’s players “got a little disconnected” and had a stretch where they didn’t move the ball enough, leading to bad shots or turnovers, while Mitchell conceded that shot selection, floor spacing, and passing were all, indeed, issues.

The team’s point guard, who was limited to exactly 28 minutes of play in an ongoing effort to remain healthy for the postseason, said it was as simple as guys looking out more for themselves than their teammates.

“When we were playing our best basketball offensively, the ball was moving, guys were touching it and just spinning it around the horn and making plays,” said Conley, who turned in one of the team’s rare efficient offensive performances, scoring 20 points on 6 for 12 overall and 5 of 9 from 3.

Mitchell would say afterward he didn’t really have a good explanation for why the team’s top-rated offense went to sideways.

Snyder didn’t really, either. Then again, given how good the Jazz have been on that side of the ball this season, he also didn’t seem terribly concerned that it’s a long-term problem.

Sure, there are flaws to identify and errors to correct. But it’s nothing that needs to turn into a back-and-forth in the media.

“We’ve been good offensively, and there’s a reason we’ve been good,” Snyder said. “But this is one where we’ll see the film and see how we can be better.”