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SALT LAKE CITY — At the end of the first quarter on Friday in Los Angeles, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder had a simple explanation for Utah’s turnover issues and poorly run offense overall.
“Our decisions when we drive haven’t been great,” Snyder told the ESPN broadcast.
And that may have been putting it nicely
The Jazz were out of sorts against the Lakers; poor reads on pick and rolls, bad decisions in transition and a massive struggle to find any cohesiveness on offense. That all led to Utah's uninspiring 95-86 loss to L.A. at the Staples Center.
"Offensively we were just kind of running in mud," Mike Conley said.
The Jazz (1-1) shot 41.4% from the field, committed 23 turnovers (just six less than they had made field goals) and without Donovan Mitchell, who scored 24 points, who knows how bad it would have got for the visitors?
The thing was, the Lakers weren’t great either. In fact, they were bad too. Despite Utah’s 13 first-half turnovers, the Jazz were only down by six points at halftime. It wasn’t the national showcase that the NBA probably wanted between two of the perceived preseason contenders as both teams struggled to protect the ball and ran themselves into careless turnovers.
It wasn’t pretty to watch.
“Throughout the game, we were just hesitant offensively,” Snyder said. “We didn’t play with a lot of force. We weren’t precise either. That hesitancy hurt us throughout the game.”
Mitchell drove into defenders and traveled. Emmanuel Mudiay, who was coming off an inspiring performance on Wednesday, played an adventurous game — and not the good kind. He often drove into the paint without a plan and made some head-scratching passes. Georges Niang lowered his shoulder on a careless drive for an offensive foul. Jeff Green barreled into defenders for multiple charges.
It was mistake after mistake.
"You gotta take better care of the ball," Snyder said. "We can’t have turnovers on outlets, we can’t throw the ball off our hips on skip passes, stuff that we are capable of controlling."
Despite all of that though, Utah tied the game early in the third quarter but eventually the Jazz's defense couldn't keep them connected any longer.
LeBron James, who finished with 32 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, took over late in the quarter as the Lakers moved Anthony Davis to center, providing Los Angeles with the proper spacing for James to work his mastery. By the time the game was headed into the final frame, the Lakers had taken a 19-point lead.
"If you are going to turn the ball over offensively, you are going to make it hard on yourself and that’s what we were doing," Snyder said. "We just gave them too many possessions."
By the 4:39 mark of the fourth quarter, Snyder had pulled all of his rotation players out of the game.
With Bojan Bogdanovic sitting out with a sprained ankle that he sustained in Utah’s season-opening win on Wednesday, Conley once again struggling to find his shot and the Jazz struggling with turnovers, Mitchell was left to almost single-handedly carry Utah’s offense.
He was 7 of 15 from the field for 24 points, but that wasn't enough on Friday.
Conley was the only other Jazz player in double digits with 13, but was 3 of 11 from the field and didn’t have a made basket until the second half. Conley is now 4 for 27 in his first two games with the Jazz.
Conley wasn't alone in his shooting struggles. With the Jazz spacing getting clogged up by poor execution, open looks were hard to come by. Jeff Green was 2 of 7, Joe Ingles took just two shots (making one), and Rudy Gobert had just eight points to go along with nine rebounds.
"There is a part of it that you are getting connected and things like that," Snyder said. "But there are parts of it where that we just need to be stronger with the ball, we need to be more decisive and we need to be more precise. We can space and those things will help you."
Utah won’t have long to dwell on the loss. The Jazz will play the Kings at home on Saturday.
"If there's a positive in back-to-backs, we played tonight and we get to play again tomorrow," Snyder said.