SALT LAKE CITY — In a performance that might just have been the worst of the season, the Utah Jazz fell to the Washington Wizards 131-122. All losses are bad — losses to nonplayoff teams (especially ones in the East) are worse. The Jazz are officially in a slump. Let's go to the comments.
"Jazz are quickly going from contender to pretender. They have the easiest second half schedule and I bet they end up the 4/5 seed with a first round playoff loss." — abd13
Even with their recent slump (2-4 over the last six games), the Jazz are still heavily favored to be the No. 1 seed in the West heading into the playoffs. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Jazz are projected to finish five games ahead of both the Suns and Lakers. So even with some unexpected losses — like Thursday's — Utah has some room to play with.
The Jazz aren't the only top team with rough times behind them. The Lakers were 2-4 in the six games before entering the All-Star break, including losses to the Wizards (hey, maybe they aren't too bad) and the Kings. The Suns, meanwhile, are 1-2 in their last three games with losses to the Pacers and Timberwolves.
"Everybody is frustrated," Phoenix's Langston Galloway said after Thursday's loss to Minnesota. "This is one that we can't afford right now, especially not in the stretch we're having right now. We need to keep rolling. It would've been perfect to gain a little ground on Utah. This definitely hurts."
As for the Clippers, they're 4-6 in their last 10 games.
That means that everyone is still chasing the Jazz — and things might get easier coming up.
This has kind of gone under the radar because of the All-Star break, but Utah is in the midst of a long stretch of road games. The Jazz finished the first half of the regular season with a four-game road trip, and will play five of their first six games after the break on the road. Utah is 13-9 in away games this season. That's not bad, but not close to its16-2 mark at home. Maybe all the Jazz need to do to right the ship is get back to Salt Lake City.
After their current road trip, they have a four-game home stand.
"Please not this again! This is kinda like the first of the season, but maybe worse." — TheHollows
In the first couple weeks of the regular season, the Jazz lost to Minnesota, struggled in a win against Oklahoma City, no-showed against Brooklyn, and caved against the Knicks. It was a very lethargic 4-4 start to the year.
So how does this current stretch compare to the early-season one where they lost four of seven and looked pretty bad doing it?
From Dec. 26 to Jan. 6, Utah's offense was ranked No. 21 in the league and its defense was 19th. The Jazz were only scoring 108.2 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass, while allowing 111.8. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that's gonna lose more games than not.
In the 2-4 stretch that goes back to before the All-Star Break, the Jazz are scoring 115.1 points per 100 possessions (that's at least not as bad), but allowing 116.7 (and that's worse).
Utah's defense has been atrocious during the last six games, and it's only faced one team with a top 10 offense (New Orleans) in the stretch. So, yes, it's been worse.
"If we have to rest Conley's hamstring I think we need to trade him, that also contributed to this loss. This should have been a game to have won without too much effort." — MisterD
The Jazz are being very cautious with Mike Conley's hamstring injury that forced him to miss six games in February.
They initially kept him out longer than Conley himself thought he needed, and it would be a surprise to see him play both games of a back-to-back anytime soon. At this point, there's no reason to worry of any long-term effects of the injury — everyone is just being extra safe.
Now, the Jazz should have won without him — there's a reason, after all, Utah chose to rest Conley against Washington and not Friday against Toronto (a game Conley is expected to play in). But it turned out to be a game where Conley was sorely missed.
Conley and Joe Ingles have turned into a tandem that doesn't let the Jazz get too out of control. It's rare that at least one of those two aren't out on the court, and there's a reason for that. When things go south, they can calm everyone down and right the ship.
Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson both have a tendency to try and force things when things are going poorly — like they were in the first half on Thursday when the Jazz committed 12 turnovers. That's all fine and well when their shot making wins out, but when it doesn't, it can lead to a lowly Eastern Conference team taking a 20-plus point lead.
Without Conley, the Jazz didn't have an extra stabilizer and they paid dearly. Utah actually outscored Washington in the minutes Ingles was on the court (not by a lot, but still). So, yes, the game would have likely been much different if Conley were able to play. Utah knows that, though. The All-Star guard is extremely important to the team which is why the Jazz are opting to sit him out in the regular season to help make sure he doesn't have to sit out in the playoffs.