PHILADELPHIA — There are two ways to look at what happened to the Utah Jazz on Monday in Philadelphia.
The optimistic outlook is that the Jazz fought back, cutting a 26-point deficit to just 7 in the closing minutes, and giving themselves at least a chance at the end.
Then there's the pessimistic one, wondering why the Jazz were down by a big deficit for the fourth straight game.
Utah put a bow on its eight-day, five-game road trip with a 103-94 loss to the 76ers on Monday at Well Fargo Center. And it was one that felt eerily similar. From the slow offensive start, to the second-half comeback, to the loss. The Jazz went 1-4 on their trip — the lone win coming against a young Memphis team (and they needed a comeback to win that one, too) — and dropped to 12-9 on the season. Utah is now 3-8 on the road.
Considering the circumstances, Monday’s result wasn’t a surprise.
If there ever was a scheduled loss, this was it. It was the third game in four nights, the last game of a long trip and against one of the top teams in the East — a loss was always likely. But it also continued a trend poor offensive decisions which led to big deficits. The loss might not have been concerning, but that was.
“I thought we had a pretty good start, early in the first quarter,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert said. “And then they raised the intensity and it was pretty much just like yesterday (in the loss to Toronto). It was hard for us to get good shots, and they just ran on us. I think we lacked communication in transition defense and all their guys got going. Everyone was making shots and it was hard for us to come back from that.”
The 76ers were 11 of 19 from 3 in the first half to help take a 60-42 lead into the break. At one point, they led by as many as 26 points in the second quarter. The Jazz went just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the opening half, failing to consistently generate the looks they needed and often settling for long midrange floaters.
“Just like yesterday” was an accurate description.
“Obviously, it‘s a long road trip,” Gobert said, who led the Jazz with 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting. “We have to be sharper and tougher mentally. And when teams are trying to get us out of what we do and play physical, we have to play through that.”
With 6:55 left in the game, Gobert walked to the bench where he joined Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz were down by 18 and it looked like that was going to be it. The white towel was getting waved. But there was one last push.
Joe Ingles manufactured a layup for Tony Bradley and then Georges Niang hit a driving shot. That quick 4-0 run caused a Philadelphia timeout and when play resumed Gobert and Mitchell were back in.
Mitchell quickly hit a driving layup, Gobert got alley-oop dunk from Niang and just like that it was a 10-point game with 4:25 still to play.
Ingles hit a 3 with 57.1 seconds left that cut the Philly lead — which was at 19 at the start of the quarter — to just 7. Ingles finished with 13 points, eight assists and eight rebounds. Ingles ran the offense late in the game with Mike Conley missing the end of the contest due to left hamstring tightness. Conley said postgame that he didn’t think it was serious.
“It’s just being tough mentally,” said Mitchell who struggled to a 6 of 19 night for 18 points. “That’s all it is. There’s a lot of teams that could just call it, and ready to go home, but not us. We made sure we stayed in, stayed in the fight.”
Mitchell had another bit of a fight — or at least a verbal altercation — on his hands during the game. In the fourth quarter, a fan was ejected after talking to both Mitchell and Ingles. Mitchell said that he wouldn’t repeat what was said, but said that the remarks crossed the line.
“He was being disrespectful,” Mitchell said. “I like Philly — just talking trash, I appreciate that’s part of the game. When you start talking personal stuff, I think that’s when things get out of control. … You could tell he had a little too much.”
The Jazz’s strong push to end the game might be something they can build on moving forward. Or at least that’s what they’re hoping.
"You build on what you do well and you work on what you do not do well,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said before the game.
But the same could have been said after Sunday’s loss in Toronto — and the lesson clearly hadn’t been learned a day later.