Given that they were mauled pretty much from the outset and never recovered, given that their eventual 34-point defeat was by far their largest of the season, you might have expected the Utah Jazz to project some dismay Friday night.
Instead, they were almost … calm.
Whether that equanimity in the aftermath of a beatdown by the suddenly surging Pelicans is a sign of mental fortitude or self-delusion remains to be seen.
But in the immediate aftermath of getting forcibly hurled into Lake Pontchartrain, the Jazz were consistently insistent that they would not make that one singular result — bad as it was — into something bigger.
“I’m not going to sit here and act like it doesn’t hurt, but I’m also not going to sit here and act like it’s the end of the world,” said Donovan Mitchell, after shooting 5 for 18.
Fellow All-Star Rudy Gobert was in agreement.
“We don’t wanna overreact to one game. None of us enjoyed losing, especially in that way,” he said. “… [But] sometimes in a season you have some of those games.”
Yeah, the Jazz are familiar with bad losses at this point — Magic, Pacers (twice), Pelicans (also back in November), Pistons, Lakers (twice), Rockets …
You get the idea.
This Pelicans loss was the biggest blowout; how it stacks up against those others can be debated, as New Orleans has, at least, now won three consecutive games by at least 25 points.
Then again, regardless of the Pelicans’ level of play, it’s not as though the Jazz didn’t mess up plenty on their own.
Break it down, Quin Snyder:
• “Obviously, we gave up some easy baskets in transition. … And we gave up some offensive boards when we did defend.”
The Jazz allowed 20 fast-break points, plus 15 offensive rebounds that led to 24 second-chance points.
• “When a team blitzes us, [we need to] get off the ball and be able to maintain spacing. That’s what we do. We’re going to keep seeing that, we’ve seen that before. When that does happen and they commit to the ball, that should be a time when the ball moves even more. … Our offense hurt our defense.”
By not passing quickly or often enough against aggressive on-ball defense, the Jazz totaled just 15 assists against 21 turnovers (which the Pelicans scored 36 points off of).
• “We had a hard time stopping ‘em early. We didn’t know personnel as well as we could have. … We didn’t execute in man [defense].”
The Jazz’s last lead of the game was at 5-4; thereafter, getting beat at the point of attack and a series of blown rotations made it all too easy for New Orleans, who earned a 35-17 lead in the first quarter by making 14 of 21 shots overall and 4 of 8 from deep.
Everyone involved noted that a too-casual start to the game enabled it to quickly spiral out of control.
“They came out from the jump ready to go, and we weren’t,” said Mitchell.
“These guys play hungry, they play like they’re starving. And that’s a mindset we can definitely learn from. … We just didn’t bring it,” added Gobert.
“We didn’t have the same energy that we’ve had,” concluded Snyder.
That about sums it up.
Mitchell would go on to lament that the Jazz didn’t make the right decisions against the Pels’ abnormally large size and wingspan, that they passed up some good looks, that their execution was not as precise as it needed to be against a team that “made it tough for 48 minutes. … Everything was like it was the last possession of the game.”
Did the Jazz play a single possession with that level of intensity?
Mitchell would add that the Jazz were “upset, and rightfully so,” but that he was “not gonna overreact to it,” and the Jazz are “not gonna sit here, heads down.
“… We’re going to have nights like this,” he concluded.
Snyder could buy that to some degree.
But only if they also put the effort in to fix what can be fixed.
“Out of 82 [games], there are gonna be nights like this,” the coach said, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t look at the game and understand some things about it we need to do better and maybe a little different.”