SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell didn’t care that he failed to score in the first half. He cared about how he defended.
“I didn’t pay attention to it,” Mitchell said of the scoreless first half. “What I was paying attention to was getting blown by on defense.”
There were many things that led to Utah’s 110-97 loss to San Antonio on Sunday.
There was San Antonio's Rudy Gay’s heroics down the stretch, the Jazz’s poor shooting and the Spurs’ efficiency from midrange. But the true frustration from Sunday’s loss was a 17-0 stretch between the first and second quarter that saw the Spurs go from being down by 5 to being up 30-18.
It was a run the Jazz never fully recovered from and a run that gave the Spurs some added confidence after a slow start. It was also a run that ended up sealing a San Antonio win.
How did it happen?
Utah’s offense has improved over the last few games. The Jazz’s offensive rating has been over 120 in three of their last four games entering Sunday’s contest. Some of that can be credited to Kyle Korver joining the team. More of it can be traced back to simply how the Jazz have played. In those three games, they've had assist totals of 26, 38 and 32.
They've moved the ball. But during that key stretch Sunday, they didn’t.
Utah’s possessions during the Spurs’ run included: a traveling violation by Jae Crowder, two Mitchell pull-up 3-pointers, a Dante Exum errant pass, a Mitchell step-back 3-point try, two Crowder 3-point attempts and a Derrick Favors hook shot.
Only once did a miss come at the rim — courtesy of a missed dunk by Royce O’Neale — and many of the 3-point shots were off the dribble.
“We stopped moving the ball,” Ricky Rubio said. "... When you don’t get a bucket it’s hard to get stops.”
Gobert leaves the court
Rudy Gobert left the game when the Jazz were up 15-13. He came back when the Jazz were down 30-22.
That fits the season-long trend of Utah being a much better team with Gobert on the floor. Coming into Sunday’s game, the Jazz were 10.7 points better per 100 possession with Gobert on the court.
While Utah was able to rout Houston without its center for much of the game Thursday, it has mostly shown this season the Jazz are very dependent on Gobert. That was evident during the key run.
But Gobert also wasn’t the fix-all. The Jazz were down by 8 when he came in; they finished the half down by 18.
“We couldn't score and that affected our defense too,” Gobert said.
The bench and 'still growing'
Chalk it up to another learning moment for the Jazz. They didn’t match the Spurs’ intensity during the stretch and the Utah bench wasn't as effective as San Antonio's.
Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli led the 17-0 charge for the Spurs by combining to score the first 8 points of the run. The Jazz bench went 0 for 6 with three turnovers during the pivotal stretch.
"We are growing as a team," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
And maybe it will be part of the growing process.
Utah regrouped at halftime. The offense returned in the second half and the defense made some stops — or at least forced the Spurs to take more difficult shots. The Jazz got the Spurs’ lead down to just 5 points in the fourth quarter. But in the end, the deficit was too much to overcome.
“We have been playing better and we know that,” Rubio said. “We didn’t play good for a good stretch in the first half.”
Gobert said: "At the end of the day, it’s about competing. When we compete and we trust each other, we are a very good team.”