Turns out, the Utah Jazz losing games is not exclusively tied to Mike Conley’s shooting woes.
The veteran point guard obliterated a recent cold streak with a 10-for-13 shooting, 29-point, seven-assist effort in Monday night’s nationally-televised game against Milwaukee.
And Utah still lost.
Undoubtedly, the multiverse is fracturing … sometime somewhere.
But then, if Conley’s performance was a significant divergence from events of late, the Jazz surrendering another double-digit lead en route to a defeat — on this occasion, 117-111 at the hands of the Bucks — was all too familiar.
“I know the guys in our locker room are deflated, because I thought we really competed under some tough circumstances tonight,” coach Quin Snyder said.
Indeed, the Jazz began the game without sharpshooting starting forward Bojan Bogdanovic (left calf strain) and reserve point guard Trent Forrest (right wrist sprain). Then they lost the man starting in Bogdanovic’s place, Danuel House, to a left knee injury after just 7 minutes.
Still, after trailing by nine at the half, Utah rallied with a massive third quarter, and went on to lead by as much as 11 points.
However, once the defending champs ratcheted up the defensive pressure in the fourth quarter, the Jazz proved unable to handle it, shooting a collective 6 for 21 overall and 1 of 11 from deep, while committing three turnovers.
And so, Utah wound up with its 12th loss this season in which it led by double-digits, while the Bucks came away with their first victory in Salt Lake City since 2001.
Afterward, the Jazz were a strange mix of disappointment and weary resignation, the prevailing sentiment seemingly that they had mostly played well and pretty much gotten what they wanted — and it just wasn’t enough.
“I was happy with what we were able to get and manufacture at certain times in the fourth,” said Conley. “… We just didn’t execute as well as we probably should at that point.”
“I thought we had some pretty good looks, for the most part. You can always go back and say we should have done this and that. But I really felt like the shots that we got were good shots,” added Rudy Gobert. “… I thought also we had good stops, too — our defense was pretty good down the stretch. Just a close game against a very good team.”
Donovan Mitchell, who shot 1 for 8 in the fourth quarter as part of a 10-for-32 shooting, four-turnover night, was perhaps the most ambivalent in the aftermath.
At first: “We fell short, but it’s nothing to hang our heads on. We’re good — I’m not gonna sit here [being] down. There were some mistakes made — missed shots, turnovers, whatever you want to look at — we’ll fix that.”
And then: “I’m upset, don’t get it twisted. I feel like I made some mistakes down the stretch, I missed some shots … but I’m optimistic out of this. There are some good things that came out of this. We will and I will be better.”
Asked if it was fair to say he’d struggled with fourth-quarter shooting over the past 10 games or so, Mitchell definitely conceded, “S---, all year. I just gotta be better.”
Maybe the nuanced approach is the right one.
After all, the Jazz did have some brilliant moments against the reigning, defending NBA champions — shooting 10 for 18 from beyond the arc in the first quarter … coming out of halftime and starting the third period on a monstrous 30-11 run that turned the game around …
Then again, as much as some affiliated with the team desperately tried to convey to the critics on social media that the Jazz played a good game against a great team, from a certain point of view, that’s another bummer.
A good game against a great team … still resulted in a loss. Can’t help but maybe extrapolate that perhaps the Jazz just aren’t really good enough.
It was telling that, on multiple occasions postgame, after Snyder praised the Bucks for various facets of their scheme (particularly the on-ball defense of Jrue Holiday and Jevon Carter), he immediately followed up with some variation of, “I thought we had some opportunities.”
The Jazz, though, aren’t to that point yet.
They’ve said it before, and they’ll undoubtedly say it again: If they can put it all together and get clicking by the playoffs, they believe they’ve got a chance.
“It’s how we continue to handle these moments and handle these games that’s gonna allow us to get where we want to be at the right time,” Snyder said.
Of course, Conley continuing to make shots wouldn’t hurt.