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3 reasons why the Jazz fell to the lowly Magic

Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs (4) defends against a shot by Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Orlando, Fla.

Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs (4) defends against a shot by Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob M. Langston, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

ORLANDO — Bojan Bogdanovic punched the air in celebration. It was the third quarter against a two-win Orlando Magic team, but the occasion was a special one: a 3-pointer actually went in.

Utah's season-long shooting struggles continued in Orlando Sunday as the Jazz fell 107-100 to the Magic at Amway Center.

Bogdanovic's celebration looked to be on point. The Jazz had righted the ship and had come back from being down double digits to take a 13-point lead. Then a disastrous fourth quarter happened. Orlando outscored Utah 32-15 in the final 12 minutes to send the Jazz home with their second-straight loss.

Here are three reasons why the Jazz fell to the upstart Magic.

Transition defense

Joe Ingles' wife Renae finished the New York City marathon on Sunday — maybe she needs to come and give the Jazz some tips on running.

This season when the Jazz get set on defense, they allow 86.1 points per possession. That numbers balloons to 129.0 on transition plays.

Translation: If they run back, they get stops; if they don't, well, they lose to a surefire lottery team.

That's just what happened Sunday.

Here's a look at some (emphasis on some!) of the poor possessions just in the first quarter.

In the first example, Donovan Mitchell casually strolled back and never stopped Jalen Suggs from driving to the hoop. On another example, it's Ingles' turn to hope that Suggs decides to not go all the way to the rim. On the third, the Jazz allow a man to leak out for a dunk.

"We're not getting to the next play — for whatever reason," coach Quin Snyder said.

So let's go to the players to see if they can shine some light on the mystery.

"It's one of those things that's more mental than physical," Ingles said. "I mean, any of you guys can go out there and run to the other end of the court."

Said Rudy Gobert: "I think it's just mental. We've just got to rebuild good habits."

Part of those habits, Gobert said, were simply not letting missed shots or missed calls keep them from running back. It's no secret the Jazz are a dominant half-court team. If a team wants to beat them, especially young upstarts like the Magic, they have to do it in transition.

So Orlando ran on missed shots, made shots, turnovers — everything. And the Jazz didn't follow.

"It gives teams life, it gives them layups and dunks and then they gain confidence, especially young teams," Gobert said. "It was really hard for them to score in the half court, to get good shots in half court. It just gave them confidence, and then they feel good and then they hit some shots that they maybe wouldn't be hitting as much if they don't get those layups in transition."

Cole Anthony and RJ Hampton combined to hit four consecutive jumpers in the final 2:19 to clinch the win for the Magic. Does that happen if the Jazz don't give them easy buckets to begin the game? Maybe. But without those layups, Orlando wouldn't have been in a position to win the game in the first place.

"That's gotta sink in at a deeper level," Snyder said.

Mitchell's foul trouble

Early in the third quarter, Mitchell reached out to stop a fast break. It was a so-called Euro foul, the Jazz's biggest weapon this season in transition (again, they haven't been running back). But this was one that Mitchell shouldn't have taken.

It gave him three fouls early in the second half. Three became four when he was called for an offensive foul with 4:11 in the third quarter, and he picked up his fifth with 7:32 left in the game after reaching in to stop a drive.

The Magic went after Mitchell defensively and the Jazz star couldn't be aggressive back, and Utah's lead slowly slipped away.

"It's a tough position to be in, but it's like trying to balance being aggressive and helping with their pick and roll," Mitchell said. "I put my teammates in a tough situation."

Orlando outscored the Jazz 32-15 in the fourth quarter to come back from 13 down and win the game. Mitchell was just 1 of 6 in the fourth for 2 points.

The shooting hits a new low

Utah won a lot of games last season due to its ability to hit the 3-point shot. Both the team's volume and percentage were near the top of the league — a good formula for scoring a lot of points.

This season they are second in the number of 3-point attempts taken, but are 26th in shooting percentage.

Sunday's game was the worst yet. Utah was 8 of 42 from 3-point range — good enough for 19%.

How bad was that?

Well, considering Utah never shot less than 25% last year from deep, pretty bad. In fact, you have to go all the way back to Nov. 23, 2018, to find a comparable shooting night for the Jazz. Yep, Sunday was their worst shooting game in three years.

"I don't think we're getting shots that different than it was last year, to be honest," Snyder said. "The biggest thing that can impact that is a readiness to shoot and to be confident, and to make that decision quickly. We get in trouble when we don't shoot, frankly, and the ball stops."

Bogdanovic is shooting 31% from deep, Mitchell is a hair under 30%, and Jordan Clarkson is hitting 21.7%. Bogdanovic and Mitchell both flirted with 40% last year and Clarkson was at 35%.

Utah is taking a bit more pull-up 3s (about three per game), but that alone shouldn't lead to a massive drop in shooting touch. So you'd think things will eventually even out. It just didn't start against the Magic.

"We are the same team that shot it last year," Mitchell said.

Even with the shooting struggles, the Jazz have still a top two offense, according to cleaningtheglass.com.

The Jazz have been the second-best offensive rebounding team in the league and are second in free throw rate — both those things were on display Sunday. Utah got 16 offensive rebounds and went to the foul line 18 more times than the Magic.

That's why the Jazz were able to get a 13-point lead in the second half. They just weren't good enough to maintain it.

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