SALT LAKE CITY — Two straight losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves? The same Timberwolves that haven't won back-to-back games all season, who had a coaching change midway through the season, and who have been at or near the bottom of the standing all season? Those Timberwolves?
Some Utah Jazz fans were in a massive panic after watching their team drop two games to the lowly Wolves. That was more than understandable; it's not a good look.
Minnesota has now won just 18 games — three of which have come against the Jazz. The first loss in December was early enough that it wasn't a big deal. Most fans were able to laugh off Saturday's loss as a gimmicky trend, but another one on Monday? That was a bridge too far.
Well, at least for the people outside the Utah locker room.
Are the Jazz, themselves, concerned about losing both ends of the home-and-home to the Wolves? In a word, no.
"I think we're still very confident," said Mike Conley, who was oh-so-close to being the hero on Monday. "We had some uncharacteristic nights — turning the ball over, guys not shooting well."
Those thoughts were echoed by Rudy Gobert. It's no surprise the two-time Defensive Player of the Year pays more attention to the defensive side of the ball, and when he looks at how many points the Wolves scored over the last two games, he sees no reason to panic. Minnesota scored 101 on Saturday and 105 on Monday.
"I would be concerned if we'd given up 140 points or something like that," he said. "Every team got some tough games. Tonight if I don't (mess) up the last play defensively, we end up winning the game. It's never going to be all good and all bad. We've just got to find ways to put ourselves in a position to win every night. I thought we did that tonight. I thought we did that last game."
Jazz coach Quin Snyder has always paid more attention to the process than the results. For example, on Saturday, if his team would have found a way to win at the end, his response to the game would have been the same. He would have looked at the turnovers, the lack of rebounds and the passed up shots, and still been disappointed in the effort.
On Monday, he saw his team fix a lot of those issues. There were fewer passed up shots (though still some) and the Wolves had just 11 second-chance points. The Jazz adjusted and competed — they just didn't make shots.
In fact, he saw it as a positive that his team kept firing up 3s even when they weren't going down. He stated that's the mentality Utah must have in order to compete at the highest level.
"I don't know what our percentage was from three — obviously wasn't good (it was 28%)," Snyder said. "I think we shoot 40% on the season, and if you keep shooting that the law of averages catches up. Unfortunately, it didn't catch all the way up tonight but it did enough for us to be right there. The NBA is the NBA.
"I thought the way that we played the first game, I was disappointed," he continued. "And tonight, obviously there's things you'd like to do better. But as I said, the things that cost us the game the other night were things that we addressed. I don't know if concern would be the word that I would choose to use, but, certainly, you want to win."
For Conley, he sees games like Monday's as learning experiences. It's easy to win when everything is clicking and when all the shots are falling. How does a team respond when it's not so easy? The Jazz have been finding that out lately.
Sometimes the results have been good, sometimes they've been bad. Collectively, Utah is just hoping it gets all those experiences done with before the playoffs roll around.
"We'll look back and realize that they made us better as a team, and made us better as a whole," Conley said. "Tonight, we were down and came back at the end and it came down to two possessions. So we're learning. We're learning and they're great lessons for us going into the playoffs, and hopefully we're getting them out now, before we get to the time we're playing better competition."