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The sky isn't falling after Jazz fall to Wizards, but some things need to be addressed



Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY β€” With 15 seconds remaining in play, Donovan Mitchell lined up across from former teammate Raul Neto for a pivotal jump ball.

A former slam dunk champion against a guard that definitely plays below the rim? Advantage Jazz, right? In most scenarios, yes; in this one, however, not exactly.

The referee started to talk to both players as he prepared for the jump ball and then unexpectedly threw it up. Mitchell wasn't ready, but Neto was. Mitchell was slow on the jump, which allowed Neto to tip it to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who then turned and hit a fadeaway 3-pointer.

That proved to be the dagger in Washington's 109-103 win over Utah Saturday at Vivint Arena.

In some ways, it was a fitting end. Mitchell was a little slow on the uptick, just like the Jazz (20-9) were a little slow at, well, everything. Quin Snyder said the Jazz didn't have the "same juice" as previous nights, and the Jazz didn't make enough shots to generate energy within the game.

So a reason for concern? Not exactly.

"This is the same team that won eight in a row," Snyder said. "The sky isn't falling, but I think it's also important to look at how we play and see what that is, and own it and address it."

So let's take a look at some of those things.

Life is better with Mike Conley

Jazz All-Star center Rudy Gobert had just four shot attempts on Saturday, and the Jazz offense for much of the night resorted to a your-turn, my-turn isolation attack that was, at times, effective (Mitchell had 13 points in the first seven minutes) and, at other times, a slog with missed shot after missed shot (Utah hit just 32% from 3-point range).

The Wizards' defensive strategy of switching and blitzing got the Jazz off balance a bit, and without Mike Conley, who sat to rest, Utah didn't have another ball handler to help get things moving.

If the Jazz were going to win Saturday it was going to be due to how Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson performed in isolation plays. Mitchell had 32 points on 12-of-25 shooting, Clarkson had 12 points and was 4 of 14 from the field β€” that wasn't good enough.

With so many isolation plays, it meant Gobert was often ignored, even when he had much smaller defenders on him.

"Um … just being physical, I guess," said Gobert when asked what the Wizards did to take his rolls to the hoop. "Nothing really different than what we see every night, switching a few times, blitzing a few times. Nothing really different."

You can read between the lines there: The Jazz guards didn't do a good enough job getting him the ball. He, though, can see the benefit of playing a few games here and there without Conley.

"Mike does everything for all the other guys on the court," Gobert said. "He tries to make all the guys better all the time, so it's always a little harder when he's not out there. It's also great because as we saw last year in the playoffs, he may not always be there."

The Jazz still struggle against small, quick scoring guards

With the way Snyder talks about Bradley Beal, it's pretty apparent the Wizards star is among his favorite players. Beal showed why that's the case on Saturday.

He scored 37 points on 13-of-24 shooting and got his points from everywhere. He hit a couple 3-pointers, got to the rim, and had it going in the midrange game. When he's on, he's one of the best three-level scorers there is. It didn't help that the Jazz didn't have anyone that could stay with him.

Royce O'Neale got the assignment on Saturday and was left guessing time and time again. He got back-doored screened a couple times, he left Beal open after trying to cheat a screen, and he got beat one-on-one on a straight-lane drive.

This isn't new; O'Neale, almost by default, has been assigned to guard the opposing team's top scorer each night, but he excels more against the bigger forwards. The smaller guards? They have had the same amount of success as Beal did on Saturday.

It hearkened back to the playoff loss last season against the Los Angeles Clippers, which begs the question: Can the Jazz defend at the point of attack effectively enough?

"That's something our guys are conscious of," Snyder said. "We're gonna have people that try to attack us and that's something we need to continue to place emphasis on and focus on."

On Wednesday, Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. said the Jazz had no one outside Gobert who could defend. The Jazz haven't done much in the last two games to prove him wrong.

Jazz late-game execution hasn't been great

For the second-straight night, Mitchell had a tough look at the basket to try to get the Jazz back into the game. For the second-straight night, it was nowhere close.

This has become a trend this season. Utah has had multiple attempts at end-of-game possessions, and most of them have ended the same: Mitchell fading away for a deep, tough looking 3-pointer.

"There just has to be more precision and more attention to detail in those situations," Snyder said. "You still may not get a great shot, but you want to get a shot that is better than the ones that we've got."

Mitchell took blame for Saturday's poor attempt, saying he broke off the play before it fully developed which left him trying to shoot over a longer defender.

"I don't think it's anything to overreact to," Mitchell said. "We have a plethora of plays, it's one thing to go over it, but I thought they did a good job guarding it. I didn't necessarily execute properly in the end."

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