It is a small sample size but after the All-Star break, the Utah Jazz struggled. If their basketball performance was a Jazz music band the notes were a little flat. Turnovers abounded in a 5 game home-stand. Sure, there were some tough games vs the Rockets and Celtics but what about the Spurs and Suns? Neither is a playoff team. The Spurs might make a run for the 8 seed but the Suns are in the middle of the desert without a water jug.
After losing only 5 games at home all season before the All-Star break, how could the Jazz drop 4 in a row in Salt Lake City immediately afterwards? The answer might surprise you.
The Jazz averaged 107 points per game in this four game losing streak and allowed 119.5 to the opposing teams. In this game, however, they scored 129 points and allowed 119. The Jazz won the game by double digits as they should against a losing Eastern Conference team.
The recipe for the win vs the Wizards was scoring a lot against a bad defensive team. Washington has players that can score. The Jazz couldn’t stop Bradley Beal, who scored 42 points. However, they kept everyone else in check. Beal doesn’t have a lot of help on his team as his normal backcourt partner in crime, John Wall, is injured.
On the offensive side you can point to many players that contributed to the win. Bojan and Donovan combined for 51 points. Donovan was especially efficient from beyond the arc as he splashed four out of his six three attempts.
In these 5 games Donovan Mitchell has not been the problem. The guys around him just haven’t been making shots. Despite his 12 point outing in a game vs the middling Spurs where the whole team struggled, Donovan scored over 30 points in each of the other four games.
In addition to scoring, Donovan has also done other things to help his team win. He averaged 3.8 assists and 5 rebounds per game in this five game stretch. The difference is that his supporting cast made significant contributions.
Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson were huge sparks off the bench vs the Wizards. They combined for 30 of the 45 bench points. It wasn’t a perfect night but I think these guys in particular excelled offensively. Gobert was one rebound and one point shy of a triple double.
Now that the rust has shaken off from the All-Star break, what can the Jazz do to capture some of the same magic they had prior to the All-Star game in some of their long win streaks?
1. Move the ball: The 23 assists the Jazz had in their win vs the Wizards is the most they’ve had with the exception of the Spurs game where they had 25. In that game the Spurs just made their shots. The Jazz should have rebounded to beat an easy Suns team but the lack of effort was frustrating en route to losing 4 straight home games. If the Jazz move the ball they tend to get open looks especially against some of these bad teams on this Eastern Conference road trip. As long as they make their shots they’ll be fine.
2. Defend as a team: Last year’s team was more consistently team-oriented because they had to be. There just wasn’t a lot of talent so they had to be brilliant defensively. This year’s team is good as they allow 108 points per game which is the 9th least in the NBA. However, they were one of the very best in the NBA last year. During the losing streak they have allowed a lot more points than they should have. If they start learning to communicate and hustle defensively that will get the transition game going on the offensive end
3. Be in attack mode all night: The Jazz need to start playing four good quarters of basketball. They are one of the worst teams in first quarter defense. They sometimes get in a rut offensively after halftime. They need to be a better than average team for all four quarters. One terrible quarter can make it hard to come back from large deficits later in the game. Many of the beat downs were so big that the Jazz were a little late in their comeback.
There are plenty of other things. The Jazz need to rebound better, the scapegoats like Joe Ingles and Mike Conley need to start playing like the GOATS, and we need to burn those mustard jerseys. However, when we turn off the overreacting fan part of our brain we see there are plenty of little things the Jazz can be doing to get better results. If they pay attention to detail then they will be fine!
The road to the playoffs starts on the road this week as the Jazz take on the Cavs, Knicks, Celtics and Pistons on an Eastern Conference road trip. Stay tuned for more coverage of these games on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!