Gordon Monson: Embarrassed and badly outplayed, the Utah Jazz are now one loss away from elimination and an ominous offseason

Will this shellacking boost up their competitive force and focus or will they weakly drift away in Salt Lake City?

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) and guard Mike Conley (11) stand on the court during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Monday, April 25, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

It was too good to last, I suppose.

And not good enough to last, I suppose even more.

With their backs slammed against the wall, in the manner of Han Solo facing getting vacuum-packed in carbonite at the end of “The Empire Strikes Back,” the Jazz showed all kinds of courage, all kinds of fight and heart in their Game 4 win over the Mavs on Saturday.

They celebrated that victory with vigor.

It didn’t hold.

Monday’s Game 5 in Dallas, a 102-77 Jazz loss, left them in a different postgame state, a disappointed and desperate one, now just one defeat away from playoff elimination.

Exactly what that elimination, if it arrives, brings in the offseason is … unknown.

But to believe that the Jazz will remain frozen — again, like Han — in their current configuration is to believe that Marie Antoinette, when told about those suffering in her kingdom, actually said, “Let them eat cake.”

She did not.

And the Jazz will not.

(There will be no more mixing and matching of 18th Century French history, 1980s Hollywood space operas and Jazz ineptitude in this column.)

Not good enough to last, indeed.

The weaknesses the Jazz showed too often this season — and in Games 2 and 3 — reared up again in the fifth game, as the Mavs shoved them back into those tendencies.

Poor perimeter defense, sluggish ball movement, inefficiency from deep, inability to start and finish a game strong, all played their devastating parts.

Just as troubling, Donovan Mitchell hobbled off the court late clutching a hamstring. It was said he would be evaluated further later.

The worst of it was their off-target shooting. Their inability or, if that’s the wrong word, their inaccuracy with the 3-point shot, kicked them hard. The Mavs are skilled at defending that scoring approach, but the Jazz also missed open looks, shots they typically made during the regular season, but … not now.

They clanked shots, over and over and over again. It was as though they were loading scraps of iron into the back of a two-ton. Or was it more them flipping an overinflated beach ball at a tin can?

All told, the Jazz made 3 of 30 heaves from beyond the arc. Three … of … freaking … 30?

Mitchell (4 of 15 overall, 0-for-7 from distance) couldn’t help. Bojan Bogdanovic (0-for-9 overall, 0-for-5 from distance) couldn’t. Royce O’Neale (2 of 6 overall, 1-for-5 from distance) couldn’t. Mike Conley (1 of 6, 0-for-3 from distance) … no way.

It was pathetic. No other way to say it.

They had 12 assists. Those are tough to acquire when shots carom all over the gym.

“We need to try to create for one another,” Quin Snyder said. “… It was extreme tonight, but it’s some of the same things we’ve talked about previously. … You’d like to execute better, help each other more. We need each other.”

He correctly underscored that there wasn’t much positive for the Jazz to grab ahold of here.

They showed limited competitive fight early, and their low energy was sapped more by rarely seeing the ball pop the net, not to mention the adverse effect that had on their defense. The question arose — were they missing shots because they were tired or were they tired because they were missing shots?

As if it mattered.

Here’s what did matter: For the Jazz to make shots, they must do all the things necessary to set up those shots. That was absent in Game 5.

They scored fewer points in the first half — 36 — than they had during any first half all season long. And it got worse from there. They trailed by 33 points through the later minutes of the third period. And by then, the game was not just over, it was torturous for the Jazz, to be embarrassed the way they were.

Essentially, the whole thing became a Luka Doncic house party, the crowd gobbling up every discouraging moment suffered by the Jazz. They sagged lower and lower, minute by minute. No measuring how frustrated Jazz fans became while watching Doncic’s smiles and smirks, fist pumps and chest bumps throughout.

You can complain about the great player’s antics and animations, and those do far too often take on the appearance of the whiny cries of a big baby, an entitled player who overreacts to almost everything, but his fight and fire are … impressive. It’s unfortunate that his immature demeanor does not meet the level of his talent.

How impressive are the Jazz?

Down in games 3-2 now, it will be of interest to see how they react, what direction they go from here. Will this shellacking boost up their competitive force and focus or will they weakly drift away in Salt Lake City in Game 6 or, if necessary, back in the Mavs’ house of horrors in Dallas?


Based on what we’ve seen, it’s tough to say.

But if honesty reigned, the lean would be in one undeniable direction, not a pretty one. And if that turns out to be true, the real action around here won’t have been what occurred in the playoffs. It will be whatever comes next, whatever happens to the makeup of this team during a coming season that is now destined to be ominous and anything but off.

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