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'It wasn't very good': Jazz explain clunker in Milwaukee following rout by Bucks

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MILWAUKEE — Will Hardy sat down at the podium, took a look at the box score in front of him and started his opening statement.

"Well, it wasn't very good," the Jazz coach said.

He went on to answer questions and explain what happened for nearly nine more minutes, but those five words just about summed up Saturday's game in Milwaukee.

The Bucks, playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, routed the Jazz 123-97 at Fiserv Forum in what was by far Utah's worst loss of the season.

Usually, Hardy is tasked with explaining crunch time moments after games; there were none of those on Saturday. Utah officially waved the white flag with 5:23 left when it emptied the bench.

So what went wrong?

For Hardy, there was three things that stood out: screen setting, driving the ball (or the lack thereof) and rebounding. All three could be explained away by a lack of physicality.

Utah wasn't good enough on drives and often surrendered after a mere bump or arm check; the screens weren't strong enough to allow the offense to run freely; and the rebounding? Oof, that was atrocious.

Milwaukee beat Utah on the boards 54-29 and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds. The Jazz gave a team who shot 47% from 3-point range that many extra opportunities, and it wasn't a good time. Utah had just six free-throw attempts in the entire game, which is just more evidence of a lack of force from the Jazz against the shorthanded Bucks.

"That's as physical as a team we've played this season; it's a good opportunity for us to learn how to adjust to a physical type of game so we can still play our style of basketball," Hardy said.

Utah looked like it was running in mud all night — Mike Conley said it felt like everyone was wearing work boots, not sneakers — and, yet, in Jazz fashion, they were still in striking distance going into the fourth quarter.

The Jazz were down just 9 points entering the final 12 minutes, but things soon got out of hand. The Bucks started the final quarter on a 13-0 run; and suddenly, the score was more indicative of how the game had actually gone.

"Seemed like nothing was bouncing our way," Kelly Olynyk said. "Sometimes you have games like that."

Except, the Jazz really haven't. Utah has lost only three games by double digits this season, and only one of those was over before the final minutes — a 16-point loss at Denver. But even that game was more of a result of shooting variance than the Jazz getting truly outplayed.

Maybe it was the cross-country flight; or maybe it was the team hoping that with Antetokounmpo and Middleton both watching from the bench, it was going be an easy night; or maybe Utah was just due for one of these games.

Whatever the case, the Jazz didn't have the same urgency they've had for most of the season.

"Just a step slow. You can't always put your finger on it," Conley said. "We aren't going to win against anybody if we don't bring it."

As for Hardy, he saw a team that, for the most part, looked like it wanted to dig in and compete but just couldn't do enough of the right stuff to actually stay in the game.

When Hardy looked up at the scoreboard near the end of the fourth quarter and saw his team down by 32 points, it didn't feel good. Actually, he was quick to point out that it probably felt worse than it really was.

"You have to try and strip away what the scoreboard looks like and try to understand why we are in this position," he said.

For him, it simply served as a reminder of how small the margin of error his team has when it comes to the physical aspects of the game. They don't have a guy that can collect 20 defensive rebounds himself, or a player who overwhelms other teams physically; it needs to be a collective effort — multiple screening actions from a number of different people and multiple players crashing the boards.

Utah didn't have that consistently enough on Saturday. The good news: They've had it before. Saturday was a clunker, no doubt, but it probably felt worse because it hasn't happened before.

"It's our job as a staff to help the guys recenter ourselves on what's important — what's real and what's not and move onto the next game," Hardy said. "Similarly to if we win by 20, we aren't the greatest team in the NBA — you can't ride that roller coaster. It just becomes too hard emotionally to get through the season if every game is the greatest thing ever or worst thing ever."

The Jazz aren't the best team in the NBA, but they are a lot better than they showed on Saturday.

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