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SALT LAKE CITY — This iteration of the Utah Jazz aren't used to these kinds of losing stretches.
This is a team that didn't lose more than two games in a row all of last season and got accustomed to long winning streaks with 20-plus point wins.
That was normal; the last two weeks haven't been.
The Jazz have now lost six of seven — each one bringing with it more confusion. What happened to the offense against the Los Angeles Lakers? Why did the Jazz seemingly forget how to guard against the Houston Rockets? What's up with giving up all the career nights.
Adding Wednesday's loss to Houston to the list, the Jazz's poor stretch has featured defeats to teams that are anything but contenders.
The Indians Pacers are in a tailspin; so, too, are the Lakers. The Pistons are vying for the worst record in the league, and the Rockets are in a battle for the worst record in the Western Conference. To put it bluntly, these have not been good teams.
So what's been the problem? Here's what the Jazz had to say
Joe Ingles: "We've been good in patches but obviously bad in patches. I think it's obviously shown recently that we're not going to kind of walk in and just win any game by showing up. A couple games in this patch we haven't shot well, and, obviously, that's even more of a reason to lock in defensively and know what the scout is, know what players tendencies are."
Bojan Bogdanovic: "We got too many black holes, too many up and downs during the game. We gotta stay consistent in focus, especially on our defense, no matter how we're playing offensively, because right now, I don't see anybody hitting shots — first of all me."
The Jazz have shot under 35% from 3-point range in four of their last five games, including back-to-back 26% shooting efforts. Those poor shooting nights are shining a spotlight on the defensive side of the ball.
Rudy Gobert: "Some nights are tougher physically, mentally, for all of us, but when our life is on the line, you focus on what's the most important? When we're tired, what's the most important? Right now, for everyone in this locker room it should be defense. We should be like, 'I might not make a shot tonight, but I'm going to do anything I can defensively.'"
On one of the most critical defensive possessions of the game on Wednesday, the Jazz blew a coverage. Utah had cut the Rockets' lead to 2 points with under two minutes remaining and needed a single stop to save itself from an embarrassing loss.
Eric Gordon went around a screen and two things happened — one of them was wrong. Bogdanovic switched on to Gordon as O'Neale jumped out at him to try and trap him. It left Christian Wood completely uncovered; and two passes later, the Rockets had a 3-point play at the basket.
Those types of mistakes have been consistently happening during the recent losing stretch.
Coach Quin Snyder: "There's a pattern of our group losing focus on things that we need to do to win the game. … We haven't played at the level that we want, you know, on both ends of the court. And that's, that's something for us to own and understand. And not just correct but improve upon."
Bogdanovic: "We all have to be on the same page — try to get better. I know that it won't be pretty every single game or every single year won't kind of year that we had last year during the regular season. So it's just you gotta put it on our head that we got to work hard on the defensive end and try to get better."
The process now begins to fix what has gone wrong. Some of that will come naturally with the team getting a regular rotation again after COVID-19 spread through the club. That, though, isn't the only reason the Jazz have lost recently. Utah had most of its rotation in the loss to the Lakers, and recent losses have just brought to mind early season losses to the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans. Pandemic protocols have complicated things, but that's not solely to blame for the recent losses.
Ingles: "There are clearly things we need to figure out and get better at, and I think it's a time to go kind of inwards and be frustrated — everyone's got to obviously look at themselves — but we've got to figure this out together with our coaching staff and the players and come out in a couple days time and be a lot better than what we what we have been."
Bogdanovic: "(We have to) get to the gym and work. Work on a little bit of film, first of all. Watch the film to see our mistakes and what we are doing bad and then take more responsibility and more pride individually on the defensive end."
Snyder: "If we can continue to be real with ourselves and continue to kind of own the mistakes that we're making, and you have an opportunity to correct them and I've seen I've seen this group do that consistently over time, and that's one of the reasons we haven't had this type of stretch (in the past)."
Gobert: "I think it's on us to really enjoy the game, and really have fun, regardless of what's going on. We are playing basketball for a living, so let's enjoy it — and at the same time, let's play some defense."