‘We’re too tense’: Utah Jazz debate what is and isn’t behind their latest late-game implosion

The team has ruled out voodoo hexes and magic, and some — but not all — have discounted psychological hurdles.

Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell (45) speaks with coach Quin Snyder during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns on Friday, April 8, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The Utah Jazz held a 17-point lead over the Phoenix Suns going into the fourth quarter Friday night at Vivint Arena.

Any guesses what happened after that?

Yeah, you can probably figure it out at this point.

In the final 12 minutes …

… they shot 3 for 20 from the field.

… they went 1 for 9 from 3-point range.

… they committed three turnovers.

… they allowed Phoenix to shoot 14 for 21.

… they were outscored 36-13.

Utah’s 111-105 defeat was its sixth loss this season after leading by double digits in the fourth quarter. They had a chance to wrap up fifth place in the Western Conference playoffs and choked it away.

As for why they continue to do that and what can be done about it?

Well, coach Quin Snyder apparently has a firm grasp on what isn’t the problem.

“I don’t think there’s some sort of voodoo hex floating around. Maybe there’s little anxieties,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s some sort of magical thing that we’re doomed to lose a lead,” he said.

“I don’t see a team day to day that has some sort of psychological hurdle to overcome. It’s more about just flat-out execution, digging in, and focus, and being able to get from one play to the next,” he said.

Really? No psychological hurdle?

Donovan Mitchell — who took the blame for shooting 0 for 6 in the fourth quarter — conceded “We gotta play free. We’re too tense, all of us,” but ultimately agreed with his coach.

“It can be a mental thing, it can be. I’m not gonna speak for everybody else when I say [this] — I don’t feel like it’s that way for us. We just play tense,” he said. “… You can sit here and say, ‘Oh, it’s mental’ — it may feel that way, it damn sure feels that way in the arena. But if we go there, then we’ve already lost the game at that point.”

Rudy Gobert, meanwhile, kinda took the opposite viewpoint.

“I think we do overthink a little bit in the fourth, in crunch time, when we’re up 17 and they creep back to 10, and then to four, and then they tie the game,” he said.

Regardless, Snyder wasn’t wrong about there being problems with execution.

Ball movement, or lack thereof late — just six assists after halftime — was an issue. Which led to bad shots. Which led to poor defense.

“When we don’t have efficient possessions offensively, it becomes much more difficult to defend,” said Snyder.

“The ball didn’t move like it was moving in the third,” added Gobert. “We also didn’t get the stops that allowed us to run. And those two things … Once again, we lost our flow offensively, we stopped playing the way we were playing earlier.”

If all of that sounds familiar, well, that’s because it is.

“I feel like it’s what happens pretty much every time,” Gobert said.

“It’s been the same answer all year,” Mitchell concurred.

They’re still trying to hold onto the idea that because they have such brilliant moments in quarters 1-3, that because they can get themselves into the position of leading the Suns by 17, they’re still perhaps just a few tweaks away from putting it all together.

It might be all they’ve got at this point.

“We did a lot of good things to put ourselves in the position we were in. And as we got into crunch time, we didn’t continue to do those things,” Snyder said. “… I believe in this team. We need to take ownership of the things we need to do better. This team has always been able to do that. No one’s run from their mistakes.”

Mitchell, meanwhile, ended his night by pleading with Jazz fans not to run to the exit doors.

“I know it sucks — fans, hang with us, man,” he said. “I promise you, we’ll be alright. I promise you.”