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'We're gonna be fine': Jazz looking at their past for hope in their future following another disheartening loss

By Ryan Miller, | Updated - Jan. 6, 2021 at 10:29 p.m. | Posted - Jan. 6, 2021 at 8:07 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell has said it before — and more than once in this still-young season.

He had to say it again on Wednesday after Utah fell to the New York Knicks, 112-100.

"We just gotta look at ourselves. I've said the same message to y'all five times already this year — whether it's guarding, taking care of the ball, we just gotta do it," he said. "That's all I got for you."

The same problems that have faced the Jazz in each of their losses this season were back at Madison Square Garden. There was a slow start, there were careless turnovers and there was a complete lack of focus for the majority of the second half.

That all led to the Jazz surrendering an 18-point lead in the loss.

"We came out strong and we lost our focus," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "Whether we're making our shots or not … To me, it's a question of focus. It's the little things."

It's an alarming trend — especially considering what had happened just 24 hours earlier against the Nets. In that game, the Jazz fell behind by 21 points in the first quarter. You'd think there would have been more of an emphasis to focus in on the details and play well. And there was a bit — until the second half came around.

"We knew what to expect from them in the third quarter — they were going to come out aggressive," said Jazz guard Mike Conley, who had 9 points and six assists. "We let our offense and not making shots dictate our energy level, our sense of urgency which we can't do ever."

Utah was 6-of-25 from 3-point range in the second half. All those misses allowed the Knicks to not only get out in transition more, but seemed to zap Utah's desire to defend.

By the end, the Jazz were in the same spot they have been in their other three losses this season: Wondering why exactly they have it on some nights and not on others. Which makes it a little difficult to really analyze the team's shortcomings.

Austin Rivers scored 14 points to end the game, turning a tie game into a comfortable win for the Knicks. Rivers is hardly the first guard to go off on Utah. While that is a point of concern going forward since Royce O'Neale doesn't seem to have the athleticism needed to check the Kyrie Irvings and Jamal Murrays of the league and the Jazz don't really have a Plan B, Rivers really isn't the type of player that should have caused the Jazz that much trouble.

During Rivers' run, the Jazz blew a switch, failed to pick him up on a broken play, and left him wide open on the perimeter. So it was less about personnel and more about, as Snyder said, focus.

"We need to put our stamp on our identity — what we want that to be," Conley said. "We are a defensive-minded team. If we want to be that, we got to be consistent on that end — with our effort, with our communication, with little things and our details coming into each game."

If there is good news it's the Jazz have been here before.

It has become a pattern for Quin Snyder-coached Utah teams to start slowly. But for most seasons there was a built-in excuse: The Jazz were figuring out life with Gordon Hayward, an early injury to Rudy Gobert, needing time to learn to play together.

But with the majority of the team returning this season, that wasn't supposed to be the case. Still, those past years gives Mitchell and Co. confidence that things will turn around.

"We have a tendency as a fan base to kind of go crazy during a poor start. During my four years, we've had stretches like this," Mitchell said. "If we continue to sit here and feel depressed and upset, you know it's not going to change. I'm not saying we're expecting this just click at some point in time, we got to do the work. … We're gonna do this, we're gonna be fine."

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