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Undefeated no more: Battle with Bulls, refs lead to Jazz's first loss of the season

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) defends against Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8)

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) defends against Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell stared right at referee Matt Myers and clapped three times.

He wanted a technical foul, and he got it.

The frustration had boiled over by that point. Sure, Mitchell thought he had been fouled on a shot attempt, but he believed the Jazz had been getting a rough whistle all night. Those three claps was him voicing his displeasure of the entire game.

A rough night with the refs combined with a great night from Chicago was enough to give the Jazz their first loss of the season.

There are no more undefeated teams left in the NBA as the Bulls topped Utah 107-99 Saturday at the United Center. With the loss, the Jazz fell to 4-1 on the season.

Mitchell led the Jazz with 30 points and Rudy Gobert added 17 points and 19 rebounds, but those numbers mask the struggle Utah had offensively. The Jazz were 38% from the field and 29% from 3-point range.

Mitchell was 9 of 27, Jordan Clarkson was 5 of 19, and Bojan Bogdanovic was 5 of 14; buckets were simply hard to come by against a stout Chicago defense. With a lot of missed shots and a few missed calls, it quickly became a frustrating night for the visitors.

Was the frustration with the refs merited?

There were some obvious misses from the official — the most egregious being an offensive foul call on Gobert when he was being held from behind on a rebound — and the Jazz ended up shooting 11 less free throws than the Bulls. So, yeah, Utah had some legitimate gripes, but it was compounded by the Jazz simply not playing all that well, especially in the second half.

Utah scored just 15 points in the third quarter as it struggled with a very physical Bulls defense. Chicago got into Utah's guards and the Jazz labored to even get into their sets. That meant a lot of isolation attempts that ended with the hurried possessions and the Jazz looking to the refs for help.

That help didn't usually come.

"We were just reckless with the ball," said Mitchell, who had six of Utah's 20 turnovers. "I think just mental mistakes played into a lot of it. When we got into our stuff, we looked good and looked fluid. I think the biggest thing is just being able to play through the physical pressure."

Someone who could have helped with that: Mike Conley.

The veteran point guard sat out Saturday's game with what the team called "right knee injury maintenance." The injury is nothing serious and him sitting out Saturday could be considered a rest day more than anything else — and it's something Jazz fans should get used to.

Quin Snyder said that, like last year, Conley likely won't play both games of back to backs this season. The Jazz play in Milwaukee on Sunday.

"It's more of a holistic decision and one that we think is the best thing for our team and for Mike," Snyder said. "I think, given the choice he'd try to play every back to back but not I'm not going to let him do that."

That meant the Jazz were without their best guard against pressure. So when Chicago got aggressive on the perimeter, Utah didn't have that person to fall back on.

"Mike settles us, but when you get pressured like that we have to help each other," Snyder said. "Whether it's getting off the ball quicker. bigs getting cracks in screen and rolls, smalls getting cracks in screen and rolls."

The Jazz didn't help each other nearly enough. So they looked to the officials, and the frustration grew.

"We can't sit here and say it's because of this or that," Mitchell said. "I got to the line 10 times; I felt like I was fouled more. There were times Rudy didn't foul, but he was called for it. Everyone makes mistakes. It happens.

"We did a lot of things wrong in our execution and then looked to be bailed out by the whistle. So now you're compounding those two things. And now it's easy to kind of point to that and say that but at the end of the day if we execute better, we don't have to worry about those foul calls."

DeMar DeRozan had 32 points and Zach LaVine had 26 for Chicago.


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