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SALT LAKE CITY — With a little over 5 minutes remaining in Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Donovan Mitchell stretched out for a rebound but was beat to the ball by Patrick Beverly.
Later that possession Mitchell looked to be in a position to grab another board, but he mistimed his jump and Montrezl Harrell snagged the ball.
Two chances, two missed rebounds.
The possession didn’t lead to Clipper points (Mitchell got the defensive rebound after yet another Los Angeles miss), but it still stuck out to Mitchell — and it was a possession that encapsulated the game itself. The Jazz got beat on the boards even when they seemed to be in the proper position.
“Trying to outjump people,” Mitchell said. “It works on some people, but it doesn't work on everybody. Go back to the fundamentals and being able to box out. It's nothing we can't fix or won't fix.”
It was the second game in a row where struggles with defensive rebounding led to a loss. Last Friday, Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes tipped in a late miss for the game-winning bucket and the Clippers had 18 offensive boards leading to 29 second-chance points.
But is there really that much to fix?
Before heading out on the quick two-game road trip, Utah was actually leading the league in defensive rebounding percentage. So, which version of the Jazz was real?
That question might just be answered against Philadelphia on Wednesday at Vivint Arena. The 76ers are currently the best offensive rebounding team in the league. If the Jazz can keep them off the boards, the last two games might just prove to be nothing more than a fluke — or at least just two games where the effort and intensity weren't where they needed to be.
“It's kind of just effort and staying focused,” Bojan Bogdanovic said. “We play a lot of minutes with four small guards, but that's not the reason why we are allowing that much second-chance points. So all of us, we got to be on the boards, help our bigs, help Rudy (Gobert), and then try to try to run and push back to be better offensively.”
After watching film of the two games, that’s the general consensus among the players and head coach Quin Snyder. Yeah, the Jazz aren’t as big as they were last season, as Derrick Favors and Ricky Rubio are both longer than their replacements in Utah's starting lineup. But the Jazz still see the recent struggles as more of a lack of aggressiveness than a lack of size.
“We haven't been as consistent with it, and that's hurt us, obviously, at key times in the game,” Snyder said. “I think with them (the 76ers), there has to be an even greater awareness because they put so much pressure on you with post-ups, post isolations, that when you're focused on that, trying to help, guys get lanes to the basket to rebound. … It's got to be collected. Everybody's got to get in on it.”
It’s not a schematic thing — the Jazz aren’t trying to quickly leak to get back on offense — and the team doesn't think it’s a size issue. They just didn't box out in the last two games.
So, in the end, it might prove to be a very simple fix.
“I think we're 6-1 if we box out,” Mitchell said. “I think that's really where the focus is. … We got to be able to play the full 24.”