SALT LAKE CITY — Last Saturday morning, Joe Ingles was pretty open about how the Jazz have often struggled against perceived inferior teams.
“I think we’ve always struggled more in games we’re ‘supposed to win’ over the years that I’ve been here, the games that we’re ‘penciled in’ to win, or whatever you call it,” he said at shootaround on Saturday morning. “So yeah, we’re just trying to get our minds right.”
Their minds weren’t right on Monday.
Oklahoma City came into Utah having just played a game in Portland the night before. The Thunder were without Danilo Gallinari and Terrance Ferguson, and some places in Vegas had them as double-digit underdogs. So yes, this was a game the Jazz were most definitely supposed to win.
Spoiler: They didn’t. Heck, they didn’t come close.
Oklahoma City, the more injured and more tired team, came into the high altitude of Salt Lake City and, to be frank, embarrassed the Jazz. The Thunder jumped out to a double-digit lead in the third quarter and never looked back, coasting to a 104-90 win over the Jazz at Vivint Arena.
Dennis Schroder scored 27 points as he got just about everywhere he wanted on the court. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 20 and Chris Paul dropped in 16 to help the Thunder to the win.
It was Utah’s sixth loss in its last eight games with the two victories both coming against Memphis. So what went wrong on Monday?
“It's almost magical,” Rudy Gobert said, “when we move the ball offensively, we play better defense because we're more connected. And when we stop moving the ball and we stop sharing the ball, our defense becomes just not as good.
“We have more breakdowns we don't communicate as well. We give up transition baskets because we take not as good shots. So it's a cycle. You know, when we play good defense, and we communicate and offensively, we share the ball, everything takes care of itself.”
The Jazz became stagnant, their defense got worse and the Thunder rolled right past them. Especially when the third quarter came around. Utah hadn’t played well up to that point but trailed by just four at the half. The wheels come off after halftime.
The Jazz had a horrendous start to the second half. The Thunder, who came into the game as the worst defensive team in the league in the third quarter, outscored Utah 34-21 in the period. With the way the Jazz were playing, that was pretty much game over.
The Thunder were going under the Jazz’s pick and rolls, taking away Gobert’s rolls to the hoop. And when the Jazz became a little too reluctant to shoot, that ruined possessions.
“Sometimes we were hesitant to shoot,” Ingles said. “I know there were a couple I could have rose up and shot it.”
It was a rough night offensively. Donovan Mitchell had 26 points for the Jazz, Gobert had 19 points and 17 rebounds and Bojan Bogdanovic had 13 points. Those were the only three Utah players in double figures.
Utah’s bench was again bad, getting outscored 45-23 by OKC’s second unit (Schroder outscored the Jazz bench himself). The Jazz shot just 40% as a team and hit only 26% of their 3s.
And that bad offensive night affected the Jazz on the defensive side. The Thunder led by as many as 22 points in the game as they used their quickness to blow by the Jazz.
"We're still going through it,” Ed Davis said on Saturday about the rough stretch. “I feel like we're in that fire right now. So it'll go either way. We either we'll come out and like, (dang), they bounced back' or (it) can get ugly. I've been in both situations."
On Monday, it got ugly.