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Donovan Mitchell Lakers (Photo by Kim Klement - Pool/Getty Images)
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Cold Shooting Fells Jazz Despite Improvement Against Lakers

Donovan Mitchell Lakers (Photo by Kim Klement - Pool/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz are far past the point of finding moral victories. Both as a team that has won 42 games and clinched a playoff spot in the West, and as a team that invested more than $100 million in the roster this past offseason with an eye on a championship run this season and next. However, after a miserable performance against the middle tier Oklahoma City Thunder, the Jazz showed improved on the court in a 116-108 loss to the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers.

The Jazz were enveloped by the uber-aggressive Thunder on Saturday, turning in a lethargic performance marred with cold shooting and poor effort on both sides of the floor. While the team couldn’t shake it’s cold shooting that has plagued them since resuming the season in Orlando, energy and effort couldn’t be blamed for the Jazz loss.

Jazz Show Signs of Improvement Against Lakers

The most obvious improvement came in the form of a stellar performance from guard Donovan Mitchell. The third-year star led the Jazz with 33 points, providing enough scoring for the team to have a punchers chance against the top-seeded Lakers. Mitchell showed off his long-distance shooting, connecting on 4-10 from the three-point line while earning 12 trips to the free-throw line. The performance marked Mitchell’s 19th 30+ point outing of the season.

Mitchell also showed continued progress as a playmaker. The guard added four assists, a number that easily could have been higher had his teammates had a more successful night from beyond the three-point line.  The guard likely has a future as a primary ball-in-hand playmaker for the Jazz, so his development as a passer will be crucial. He’s been terrific finding teammates in July, and that’s a huge positive for the Jazz.

“That’s really my focus is to try to make things simple,” Mitchell said. “I’ve got to be way more consistent with that, but I think tonight I did a solid job.”

Mike Conley also continued his positive play in Orlando. Mitchell’s backcourt teammate scored 24 points and added eight assists for the Jazz. It’s the first the guard has recorded a stat line of over 20 points and eight assists with the Jazz.

The guard had been on a hot streak entering the league’s hiatus and continues to develop into this role with the Jazz. Conley struggled to find his jump shot early in the season before being sidelined by a hamstring injury in December and January.

The veteran guard has now scored in double digits for the Jazz in 10 straight outings, and 17 of the team’s last 18 games dating back to January 27.

Jazz Still Struggling to Shoot

While there were upsides, the Jazz most glaring issues continues to be the unimaginably poor shooting they have shown in Orlando. The team connected on just 12-43 attempts from downtown. For context on how poorly the Jazz have been shooting since resuming the season, the 28 percent of threes they connected on against the Lakers was their best outing since resuming the season last Thursday.

“We had some possessions when the ball really moved,” Snyder said of the team’s 43 three-point attempts. “We got really wide open threes but we weren’t able to knock them down.”

In total, the Jazz are shooting just 26 percent from the three-point line over their last three games. The Jazz were the NBA’s second-best three-point shooting team through the first 64 games of the season at 38 percent.

The Atlanta Hawks are the league’s worst three-point shooting team this season at 33 percent, and still connected from deep seven percentage points ahead of the Jazz since resuming the season.

While no players have shot well for the Jazz in Orlando, reserve Jordan Clarkson and Georges Niang have been particularly poor from three. Niang went 0-3 from deep against the Lakers, pushing his total over the last three games 1-13 in Florida. That’s good for seven percent.

Meanwhile, Clarkson connected on just 1-9 three-point attempts against LA, moving his Orlando average to 18 percent over the last three games.

Before the league’s hiatus, Niang was a 41 percent three-point shooter. Since being acquired by the Jazz, Clarkson had connected on 36 percent of his three-point attempts.

Too Many Turnovers

Sloppy play has been apparent in Orlando, with most teams struggling with over-fouling and turnovers. The Jazz showed their penchant for giveaways against the Lakers Monday night. In total, the Jazz finished with 21 turnovers, led by guard Joe Ingles who had six giveaways in 35 minutes. As a team, the Jazz had nine turnovers in the critical third quarter.

The Jazz led 66-60 early in the second half, but cold shooting and turnovers allowed the Lakers to build an 86-76 lead going into the final quarter. The Lakers finished the third period on a 19-5 run to close out the Jazz opportunity to earn their second win in Orlando.

The Jazz now turn their attention to the Memphis Grizzlies who are winless since the league resumed play, but are fighting to hold on to the eighth seed in the West. The Grizzlies fell to the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night 109-99.

With the San Antonio Spurs off to a surprising start in Orlando, and the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks still looming on the schedule, the Grizzlies may present the Jazz with their best opportunity to right the ship before entering the postseason.

The Jazz and Grizzlies tip-off on Wednesday at 12:30 pm MT. The game will be broadcast on AT&T SportsNet.

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