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Jazz Continue Desperate Slide In Home Loss To Thunder

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) is boxed in by Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort (5) and forward Darius Bazley (7) during the first half of a NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. Colter Peterson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz suffered their worst loss of the season, falling at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-90. The Thunder were on the second game of a back-to-back, having beat the Trailblazers in Portland Sunday night. The Jazz were on the third game of a three-game homestand, having slept in their own beds for the seventh straight night. 

The Story

The Thunder were without two starters, with both Danilo Gallinari and Terrance Ferguson missing the game due to injuries. Gallinari is the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 18.3 points per game. 

The Jazz turned in their second-lowest scoring output of the season, amassing just 90 points, and failed to score more than 24 points in any of the four quarters. The team’s 89.1 offensive rating registers in the bottom four percent of offensive outings by any time in the NBA this season. 

Mike Conley missed his third consecutive game as recover from a hamstring injury, and his absence was notable. Joe Ingles was forced into the starting lineup with Conley out, taking the team’s most complete offensive player off the second unit. As a result, the bench was outscored 45-23. Emmanuel Mudiay, Georges Niang, Jeff Green, and Ed Davis, the Jazz most heavily relied upon bench players were outscored by a combined -48. 

“It’s hard to evaluate the impact of a player of Mike’s caliber, you always miss good players when they don’t play, but like I said we need to play better,” Quin Snyder said, “You can look at the things we need to do better and we can work towards that and improve them.”

The Jazz were badly outperformed by the Thunder’s guards. Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schroder combined for 63 points on 44 percent shooting. Meanwhile, Donovan Mitchell, Ingles, and Mudiay combined for 37 points and shot just 37 percent from the floor. Mitchell was just 10-25 shooting.  

“He hurt is in a number of different places after switches,” Snyder said of Schroder, “He hurt us in the midrange, hats of to him, he’s a tough cover.“

Schroder scored 27 points on 11-21 shooting. 

The Game

The followed a now all too familiar storyline. The Jazz hung with the Thunder through the first quarter but railed 25-24 after 12 minutes. The lead ballooned to 47-40 with just under five minutes to go in the first half, before trailing 51-47 at the break. 

In the third quarter, the Jazz starters failed to close the gap and trailed 66-57 when Mudiay subbed in for Mitchell. A 20-8 run over the next 4:50 saw the Jazz trailing by 21 points, and the game was out of reach. 

Despite the carbon copy script that has led to the Jazz trailing by 20 points or more in four of their last six games, Snyder said there isn’t one common thread from opponents that causing the Jazz offensive lapses.

“Every game is different every opponent is different. OKC is very different than Philadelphia as far as how their team is put together and we need to adjust to that game to game and we haven’t been able to do that on the level that we need to.” 

Bojan Bogdanovic had arguably his worst game in a Jazz uniform, connecting on just 4-17 shots from the floor, scoring seven points, and knocking down just 1-10 field goals inside of three-point range. 

Rudy Gobert was the lone bright spot offensively. Gobert finished the night with 19 points on 9-10 shooting while snarring 17 rebounds. Despite his efforts attacking the rim, Gobert was awarded just two free-throw attempts. 

As a team, the Jazz attempted just 12 free-throws. 

Gobert offered his thoughts on the Jazz recent poor play. 

“Maybe it’s just because when we get tired we forget about what’s important, and we fall back into our demons.”

The Big Picture

The Jazz bench simply isn’t playing well enough to keep the team in the game when any of the five starters are off the floor. Unless the starters can build up a big lead, or the bench is uncommonly hot shooting the ball, the Jazz have been susceptible to long scoring droughts, leading to a poor defensive stretches that quickly put the game out of hand. 

On nights when the starters don’t significantly outplay the opposition, the Jazz seem to have next to no chance of a positive outcome. 

However, it isn’t just the bench unit to blame. After the game, both Mitchell and Gobert questioned the team’s toughness. 

“They just can take us out of our offense, out of our game,” Mitchell said, “We can’t complain about calls, they did a better job of that than we did.”

Gobert also noted opponents’ ability to quickly derail the Jazz gameplan. 

“We feel like we are not playing the way we want to play. We’re not the team that we can be. It’s frustrating and all the teams can see it, and they come in and go at us.“

The Jazz have lost six of their last eight games, with their two wins coming against the lowly Memphis Grizzlies. It’s a confounding stretch for a team that entered the season with championship aspirations. 

“We’ve been saying the same thing for a week and a half,” Mitchell said of the team’s slide, “We’ve got to have a tougher mindset. We’ve got to get back in transition and we’ve got to communicate.”

The Jazz travel to Minnesota to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves who have lost five games in a row. The matchup should be a good test of wills between two hopeful playoff teams experience poor stretches of basketball desperate for a win