by Daniel Olsen | Until the Jazz get back to Jazz basketball, I will be calling them the little apple. I have tried to be positive about the Jazz but in these last two games I did not recognize that team that played in the Big Apple. They were too sluggish and played sloppy with the ball. They have not put together four quarters of good basketball which is why they lost both games by double digits. I could understand a bad loss to Brooklyn if KD had played but the Jazz let Kyrie put them to bed. The Knicks are an improved team but the Jazz also gave that one up.
What looked like a promising road trip now looks bleak. The Jazz will have to pick up their level of play to get any more wins on this trip. Rather than continue to rant about the poor play, I will point out the small parts I did like and suggest some things they can do to end this road trip on a high note.
1. Stop playing like Trolls
What do I mean by this? The Jazz turn the ball over too much. I wrote an article previewing how I expected the Jazz to do on this road trip. It hasn’t gone according to plan. I did say if they only manage to win 1 game or less in this road trip, they are trolls. This comes from a Harry Potter reference where the lowest grade you can get on an Ordinary Wizarding Level (O.W.L) exam is a T for troll.
On a positive note, the Jazz didn’t do this the whole game. They did move the ball beautifully in the first half which resulted in equally beautiful shots and a cushy 12 point lead at half. At this point if they clamp down, the Knicks will fade. Since they gave the Knicks life, they lost. It’s that simple. Good teams don’t let bad teams think they’re good enough to keep up. They attack early and often throughout the game.
Turning the ball over isn’t a smart thing. Your goal is to keep it from the other team long enough to put up a good shot. Sometimes it’s unavoidable with the high level of ball movement the Jazz play with but we have to take what the defense gives us and not telegraph our passes. Part of this comes with being in sync.
2 Keep your chin up
When teams get down they tend to give up this season. While the Jazz have rarely flat out given up, they tend to struggle when allowing themselves to fall behind by double digits early. In the first game against Brooklyn they managed just 14 points in the first quarter. That was by far their worst quarter offensively. They also gave up 35 points which isn’t great defensively either.
Had they had a better first quarter they would have at least been in the game. They scored plenty in the final three quarters but it is difficult to come back if they can’t have a quarter where they outscore their opponent by the same amount. They outscored the Nets by two in the second quarter before being outscored by 15 in the final half en route to their worst loss of the season. They lost by 30 points. Prior to this, their worst loss was by 11 points to the Suns on New Years Eve.
I think this is mainly due to lack of grit. They need to hustle down the court, get in a defensive stance and lock up. They can’t expect to shoot the lights out every night but they can play much better defense.
3 Hocus Pocus Everybody Focus
The reason the Jazz lost to a perennial poor team in the Knicks is definitely a focus issue. Donovan Mitchell has been saying for a while that they need to decide what kind of team they want to be. The Jazz outscored the Knicks by 12 in the first half but then let their foot off the gas. They didn’t seem to know their assignments or do their homework. Here are a few examples:
RJ Barrett is not a shooter. He averages just over 30 percent from downtown in his Young career and 21.6 percent this season. Why are the Jazz letting him get to the rim at this clip? He made 4-14 front the field. Three of them were at the rim. If he makes a mid-range shot like he did on the right side then you live with that. He goes hard left every time. A better team stays in front and forces him to make a play. If he beats you off the dribble, send some help or at least have Gobert waiting down low to force him into an awkward mid range floater. Barrett is a lottery pick but it’s a shooter’s league! This shouldn’t happen to a team with a high basketball IQ.
There was one key play late in the fourth quarter where the score was tied 96-96. Gobert switched to Austin Rivers on a drive. Rivers reeled Gobert out to the perimeter like a fish out of water. Rivers shimmied and splashed a three in Gobert’s face. This shouldn’t happen. No disrespect to the two time defensive player of the year but he lives in the paint. This was a switch they could have avoided. Another guard needs to chase Rivers out if he goes back to the top of the key. He is a capable outside shooter especially when wide open so the Jazz need to chase him off the three.
Lastly, I will repeat the same question I started with: what is with all the turnovers? The Jazz seem to be playing sloppy on both ends of the floor when they lose. For example, near the end of the third quarter, Ingles is playing off the pick and roll. Rivers reads his route and picks his pocket. Instead of hustling back on defense Ingles complains about a foul. The aforementioned Barrett sprints for an easy money layup. That is not Jazz basketball at its finest.
Every possession matters especially when you’re not playing well. The Jazz currently average the eighth highest turnovers per game with 15.9 per contest. However, in the last three games they are highest in the league with. 17.3 per contest. If you give away possessions this easily it allows the other team to get easy shots in transition. That’s exactly what the Jazz did. The Knicks punched back in the second half and the Jazz didn’t fight back.
The Jazz better play with a sense of urgency over 48 minutes because it doesn’t get any easier when they play the Bucks. They will have some easier games after that but this is the NBA. Even the worst teams have professional talent so the Jazz can’t afford any nights off. That is, unless they want to keep losing on this east coast road trip and dig themselves a hole. I doubt they want to do that. It’s time to stop playing like the little apple. The Jazz need to represent Salt Lake City and the state of Utah. It’s time to play Jazz basketball!
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Featured image courtesy David Zabulowski | Associated Press