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'Hopefully it hurts enough': Jazz looking in mirror after losing on another game winner



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Before Friday's game, Quin Snyder reminisced about his first season as the Utah Jazz head coach.

He remembered being in the midst of a nine-game losing streak as he looked at the schedule in an effort to figure out when the next win would come.

New Orleans Pelicans rookie coach Willie Green may have done a similar exercise coming into Friday's matchup. His team had just gotten their fourth win of the season Wednesday, but it looked like it would be a while before the next one would come.

Or not.

Remember when Jaren Jackson Jr. hit a late-game 3 to beat the Jazz on Monday? The Jazz got some deja vu on Friday.

New Orleans' Devonte Graham buried a transition 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left as the Pelicans shocked the Jazz 98-97 Friday at Vivint Arena.

"I don't think we are playing like a team that wants to play for a championship; we're playing like a young team and losing to young teams, too," Rudy Gobert said. "Even the young teams play better than us in the clutch."

Maybe it was best that Graham's shot went in. If it hadn't, the Jazz could have been talking about how Donovan Mitchell came alive late once again to try and atone for yet another poor night; or they could have thrown around buzz words like "resolve" or "fight" or whatever else they could come up with to try and make a bad performance look better.

As it was, the Jazz had nothing to fall back on. Graham's game-winner made the team take a deep look in the mirror. Utah was bad Friday — more than bad. Everything that made Utah's regular season special last season — the extra passes and constant ball movement — disappeared for long portions of the game.

It went about as good as you'd expect.

Mitchell was 6-of-21 shooting for 16 points; Jordan Clarkson was 3 of 12 for 12 points; and Mike Conley was 4 of 10 for 12 points. Rudy Gobert, meanwhile, had just three shot attempts — a product of the seemingly endless ball stopping.

"It's the first pass, once you don't make the first pass, everything else collapses after that," Mitchell said. "When we don't shoot — some games it's we're not shooting and our shot fake leads to a bad shot. Honestly, we gotta do it, otherwise this will be who we are going to be; this is not who we are. I've got to be better; this is not who I am."

It has been who he is this season, though.

Mitchell is 17 of 57 from the field in the last three games — a loss to Memphis, a squeaker in Oklahoma City, and Friday's stunner against the Pelicans. Utah has a losing record (3-4) this season when Mitchell attempts at least 21 shots. He's been indecisive on his reads, he's missed open teammates and has taken poor shots; but he's not alone.

​​For a team that has mostly been together for three seasons now, it begs the question: How are things so disjointed?

"That's a great question, I wish I knew the answer," Gobert said. "I don't know how many times I have to lose in the playoffs before we start learning. We are doing the same stuff over and over and over. Hopefully we grow. Hopefully it hurts enough that we put our egos aside, we grow and we play as a team."

We play as a team ...

Utah has the No. 1 offense this season, but ask anyone — the players, coaches, even the fans — and it just hasn't felt like it. Things have just been off.

Occasionally, the ball will swing all over the court, reflecting the near-basketball nirvana the Jazz touched last season. More often, though, it's been Mitchell, Conley or Clarkson dribbling out the clock and hoping to find a late look. It's not the team's plan, but it is what's happened.

It's boring, ugly and ineffective. The Jazz were only in a position to win Friday because the Pelicans were equally as awful (who's stoked for the sequel on Saturday?!).

"We've done it a couple of games and we feel it start to come and then we digress," Snyder said of his team's offense. "That's just a question of our mindset and what we value during the course of the game and what we value collectively. Moving the ball requires trusting your teammates, and when we do that I think we're rewarded. When we don't, we're penalized."

Snyder stopped just short of calling his team selfish; Gobert toed the line there as well.

"When we think about ourselves, it's not as fun and it affects our defense and we lose games that we shouldn't lose," Gobert said.

That's just what happened Friday. Will that serve as a wakeup call for a team that has been seemingly sleepwalking through the first 19 games of the year or will Willie Green be able to find another win for his young team?

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