Jazz say streak-snapping loss 'stings,' but emphasize the world isn't ending

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SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell knew early he wouldn't be bothered by the symptoms that forced him to miss the two games as he went through the league's concussion protocol.

"They started blasting music loud as hell to start the game," Mitchell said of the Pepsi Center game ops. "So I think I'm fine."

That was the good news.

The bad: He still has to regain the rhythm he has played with for much of the month of January. Mitchell had an uneven performance in his return, shooting 3-of-12 for 13 points and finishing with five turnovers.

"I feel good, just trying to get my rhythm back," Mitchell said. "I think that's the biggest thing, but no real effects at all."

Mitchell was far from alone in struggling in Utah's 128-117 loss to Denver, a defeat that snapped the Jazz's 11-game winning streak. Rudy Gobert had 12 points and eight rebounds, and wasn't near good enough on the defensive end. Mike Conley had just 12 points on 2-of-10 shooting. Jordan Clarkson was 4-of-13 from the field.

But more important on Sunday was how a defense that had been inching its way to the top of the league was cut up by Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets. That's what knocked the Jazz off their perch at the top of the league.

The Nuggets had 79 points at halftime and was 15-of-17 from three in the first two quarters. Numbers that would give any defense headaches — no concussion symptoms needed.

"We felt like we didn't play our best in the loss, I think that's what hurts. Especially the way we played the past few games against Dallas. To go have that performance and then come out here and then they come out and shoot 15-of-17, I think that's what hurts the most," Mitchell said.

"And then to come out to play the way we played the second half, that's what kind of stings a little more, as opposed to the world is ending," he continued. "I don't think we're in that mode at all. I think at the end of the day, this is a loss, we learn from it and move on. But I think just the way it happened, I think that's what kind of stings because of the things that we can control, outside of them shooting, you know, whatever it was for three."

Utah knew this day would come. The Jazz weren't going to win every game, even if the last few weeks made it look like they were flat out unbeatable. So the plan is to do what they have been doing all season: look at the tape, figure out a way to get better and learn from the loss.

It's just more fun to learn from wins.

"Regardless of what your perception is of yourselves or someone else's perception of you, the key thing is to be at your best," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "And so I think that's been the focus that we've had up to this point, it'll be the same focus we have after tonight."

Snyder is a process-minded coach. The wins, losses and his team's place in the standings seem to be secondary at best to him. He cares about how his team is playing, not the results that come from. It's almost as if he's happier if the Jazz play well and lose than if they played poorly and won — at least in the regular season.

"Regardless of the result, our challenge to ourselves has been trying to continue to get better," Snyder said. "That's what you take from a night like tonight. It's hard in the regular season to evaluate yourself on the result of any one game, but that doesn't mean you don't evaluate how you played. And I think that's the primary thing that you want to take with it, and that's what helps you get better."

For Gobert, he doesn't have to watch much film to see where he wants to improve from Sunday. It didn't matter that he didn't begin the game guarding Jokic as the Jazz started Bojan Bogdanovic on him to hopefully allow Gobert to be a weak-side defender, he still took put Jokic's 47-point career-night directly on his shoulders.

"I should have done a much better job; he scored way too easily especially in the first half," Gobert said (Jokic had 33 points at halftime). "Second half was much better but when someone's got 30 in the first half, it's tough to be in a position where you can win a game. I take full responsibility for that. The team relies on me and I got to come out better."

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