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‘Not worried at all’: Utah Jazz profess stoicism after latest meltdown

Despite a sixth loss in seven games Wednesday vs. the Rockets, the Jazz are trying to remain focused on the “really, really good” things they’ve done, hoping more attention to detail will get them back on track.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (11) looks back to Houston Rockets center Christian Wood (35) who sunk a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter as the Utah Jazz host the Houston Rockets at Vivint Arena, Jan. 18, 2022.

You could be forgiven for thinking it’s a broken record at this point.

After the Utah Jazz lost for the sixth time in seven games Wednesday night, blowing a 13-point third-quarter lead against a Rockets team that came into Vivint Arena with a 13-32 record, there were a lot of familiar refrains in the postgame mea culpa that’s become far too frequent a tradition of late.

We need to be better at defense. We need to be more consistent. We need to lock in for 48 minutes. We need to be accountable. We need to communicate.

You know the drill.

“There’s a pattern of our group losing focus on things that we need to do to win the game,” coach Quin Snyder added for good measure.

Pretty much.

What was different following this defeat was just how equanimous they were in the aftermath of this latest debacle.

“I’m not worried. I’m not worried at all,” said Rudy Gobert. “… We’ll be all right. I’m not worried at all. We want to win every night, but sometimes you need nights like this to get better and to keep going.”

Joe Ingles, who got his 10th start of the season Wednesday with Donovan Mitchell in the NBA’s concussion protocol, acknowledged that the Jazz are going through a tough stretch at the moment, but also tried to convey the notion that the team is not in some irrecoverable downward spiral.

“We’ve proved that we’re not just going to walk in and win games; we’ve also proved that we can be a really, really good team,” he said. “We’ll watch [film] tomorrow and keep trying to get better as the season goes on, and have another crack on Friday.”

From a big-picture perspective, he’s right, of course — in spite of this valley in the schedule, the Jazz are still 29-16 on the season, still a top-four team in the Western Conference, still the top-rated offense in the league.

It’s hard to look at silver linings, though, when the team is slogging through a laissez faire first half, finally looking energetic and engaged for a bit in the third quarter en route to building up a 75-62 advantage, then promptly giving it away again with a maddening lack of focus.

“That’s what cost us the game. We have too many black holes, too many up-and-downs during the game. We’ve got to stay consistent and focus — especially on our defense, no matter how we are playing offensively. Because right now, I don’t see anybody hitting shots, least of all me.”

So much frustrating truth in there.

The defense, which has been a sore spot for most of the season, was inconsistent (bordering on nonexistent at times) once again. The Rockets shot just 37.3% inside the arc, but 48.9% beyond it — and yet, the Jazz consistently botched simple switches and perimeter rotations that had the result of leaving Houston shooters unconscionably wide-open.

Time after time, Garrison Mathews specifically (5 of 9) and the Rockets collectively (22 of 45) had a clean look at 3-pointers because Utah’s defenders inexplicably didn’t defend the right man.

“We had multiple breakdowns over the course of the game in different capacities defensively,” Snyder explained. “Helping when we shouldn’t have been helping, not recognizing personnel situations, just not focused on the details of what we’re trying to do.”

Further, a Houston team that came in leading the NBA in turnovers per game only committed nine on this occasion, so unperturbed were the Rockets by Utah’s theoretical attempts to stop them.

Both Bojan Bogdanovic (”[We need to] take more responsibility and more pride individually on the defensive end.”) and Gobert (”What’s the most important? Right now, for every single person in this locker room, it should be defense.”) pointedly harped on the team’s performance on that end.

To complete Bogey’s previous thought, though, it’s not like the Jazz had the cleanest of performances offensively, either. Yes, Bogdanovic racked up a team-high 29 points as the focal point with Mitchell out, but he shot just 11 of 27 in doing it, including 3 of 13 from deep. Royce O’Neale, who contributed with 15 rebounds and five assists, was just 1 of 5 from deep. Ingles, who also had his moments with six assists and five boards, only made 2 of 7 tries beyond the arc.

As a team, the Jazz were only 10 for 38 from 3 (26.3%).

Clearly, they’ve got a lot of basketball issues to sort out. And to Ingles’ point, they’e got another chance to right the ship on Friday.

Then again, considering that matchup is against a Pistons team that rallied from a 22-point deficit by scoring 78 post-halftime points just a week and a half ago, there’ll be some additional baggage hanging over this meeting as well.

That said, Ingles reiterated the even-keeled approach.

“There’s clearly things we need to figure out and get better at. I don’t think it’s a time to go inwards and and be frustrated,” he said. “Everyone’s got to, obviously, look at themselves, but we’ve got to figure this out together and come out on Friday and be a lot better than we have been.”


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