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SALT LAKE CITY — Quin Snyder could have pointed to a lot of pivotal moments Monday night.
There was the beginning of the game; the start of the third quarter; the big run in the fourth. All of those added up to the Jazz’s first defeat in two weeks in a 109-104 loss to the Portland Trailblazers Monday night at Vivint Arena.
It came down to inconsistency.
The loss snapped Utah’s six-game winning streak.
“There were stretches where we weren't consistent and you can point to a lot of them,” Snyder said. “Whether it’s a two-minute stretch or a four-minute stretch. We have to be able to maintain that level, especially on the defensive side over a longer period of time.”
The one that proved to be too much to overcome was a big Portland run in the fourth quarter. The Jazz (26-22) started off the final quarter by scoring seven straight points to take an 86-83 lead. But that ended up being their final advantage of the game. The Blazers went on an 18-4 run after that to build up a double-digit lead.
Donovan Mitchell tried to will the Jazz back into the contest — scoring 14 straight points late in the fourth quarter to finish with a game-high 36 on the night — but the Jazz never got closer than four points.
The Jazz were also undone by giving up 39 points in the third quarter. And that came after they had only surrendered 15 in the second quarter. That disparity showed Snyder his team didn’t have the right focus on Monday.
“That goes to our concentration throughout,” Snyder said. “It wasn’t one thing; it was a lot of things that add up.”
Utah struggled to defend Portland’s pick-and-roll, leading to a 26-point and 8-assist night from Damian Lillard and a 22-point game from Jusuf Nurkic. Those are two top players in the NBA, but the action was one the Jazz have defended, and defended well, plenty of times before — including against those same two players.
“That’s a rotation that our guys know, that we’ve worked on a lot,” Snyder said. “Our focus, whether it be urgency or anticipation, those things have to be there consistently. If everybody has one breakdown, one in the first half, one in the second half, all of sudden you’re in a position to be behind and not be able to overcome that lead. Obviously, that was one situation with pick-and-roll. There were a few others.”
The same type of defensive performance that carried the Jazz back into the playoff field over the course of the last two weeks wasn’t there Monday. Or at least wasn’t there enough. And with the Jazz only shooting 40 percent from the field and just 21 percent (7-for-33) from behind the 3-point line, they needed a dynamic defensive performance. They didn’t give it.
“I think sometimes there is a tendency to have slippage,” Snyder said. “Often times, when you are winning, you can have that slippage; it’s just not readily apparent from the outside. We get out of character and don’t defend the way we need to.”
On Saturday, following Utah’s win over Cleveland, Snyder was visibly frustrated about how the Jazz finished the game. They had built a 38-point lead in the second half before allowing the Cavs to score 39 points in the final quarter. While Snyder didn’t necessarily think that carried over to the matchup against Portland, his players brought it up.
“I think the Cleveland game kind of let off a little bit to how we slacked off at the end,” Mitchell said. "Even the start to the game, we are too lax. We got to still stay strong. And come out strong.”
The Jazz had a strong second quarter Monday, and a strong finish to the game — even having an open 3-point attempt with 15 seconds remaining that would have cut the Portland lead to just one.
But there were the other moments — the ones when Lillard got loose, when the Jazz missed a rotation leading to open shots — that led to the loss.
"It requires a level of focus and intensity to be able to execute," Snyder said. "That's the execution we need. When we are playing well we get that execution on the defensive end."