Jazz Home Struggles Continue In Loss To Wizards

Dec 18, 2021, 10:39 PM
Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz fouls Montrezl Harrell of the Washington Wizards (Photo by Chris Gardn...
Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz fouls Montrezl Harrell of the Washington Wizards (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz lost for the second straight night at home, falling to the lowly Washington Wizards 109-103 just one night after dropping a game late to the San Antonio Spurs.

As they did against San Antonio, the Jazz led by double-digits in the first half but took their foot off the gas pedal after building their lead and weren’t able to close out the games.

The Jazz were playing shorthanded without Mike Conley who missed the game due to rest, and outside of Donovan Mitchell who scored 32 points, struggled to score the ball.

Bradley Beal led all scorers with 37 points in the Wizards win as the Jazz moved to 10-6 at home after losing just five games in Salt Lake City last year.

Slew Of Reasons For Jazz Loss

1. Jazz Missed Conley

Whereas Friday’s loss to the Spurs was relatively easy to diagnose, namely poor defense in the first and third quarters, and great shot-making from San Antonio, there were far more reasons the Jazz lost to the Wizards.

The most obvious reason was that the team missed Conley who has rested occasionally on the back end of back-to-back games and didn’t get adequate production in his absence.

Quin Snyder turned to Joe Ingles and Trent Forrest to fill the minutes, and the results were mixed. Ingles had nine points and six rebounds, but his minutes felt mostly unimpactful while Forrest had just one point, one rebound, and one assist in 11 minutes.

Forrest has found a unique way to impact games in short stints but wasn’t able to show an ability to impact the game against Washington after his first few minutes.

The Jazz 101 offensive rating was their worst since losing at home to the New Orleans Pelicans more than three weeks ago, and the lack of playmaking with Conley resting was apparent.

2. Jazz Bench Was Badly Outplayed

With Ingles pushed into the starting lineup, the Jazz bench struggled to score the ball with any efficiency, managing just 24 points on 7-24 shooting, or 29 percent.

Meanwhile, the Wizards got 39 points from their second unit on 15-27 shooting or 55 percent.

The Jazz bench play has been up and down this season, but with veterans like Rudy Gay and Hassan Whiteside, you’d hope there would be more stability to survive Jordan Clarkson’s somewhat regular 4-14 shooting nights.

However, Gay and Whiteside shot just 3-10 from the floor for 11 points in 30 combined minutes.

3. Missed Free-Throws

The Jazz shot 10 more free-throws than the Wizards and were in the penalty for the majority of the fourth quarter but failed to punish Washington for their mistakes, making just three more free-throws on the night.

In the final frame, the Jazz went 7-14 from the line, repeatedly bailing out Washington’s foul-happy defense with inefficient possessions that ended at the free-throw line.

4. Shooting Covered Up Average Defense

During the Jazz’s recent win streak, their stellar offense covered up what had been a fine, but not spectacular defense.

The Jazz posted a 127 offensive rating during the win streak, an incredible, albeit unsustainable pace, largely thanks to their hot shooting.

As a team, the Jazz were knocking down nearly 20 threes per game while shooting 44 percent from downtown. While that made for a series of blowout wins, it made it easy to overlook that the team had dropped from a 105.0 defensive rating over the first 19 games of the season to 108.5 during the win streak.

The Jazz had a 107.9 defensive rating against Washington which is better than the league average, but would only rank 12th in the NBA for the season. When the offensive struggles like it did against the Wizards, the Jazz need to be able to turn to their defense to get wins, and it hasn’t been there for several weeks now.

Plays Not Streaks

After winning eight straight games, the Jazz have strung together two surprising losses.

Streaks are a fun storyline, easy to get behind, and are a clear indicator of a team’s success from afar, but up close, the Jazz aren’t using it as their only measuring stick.

Before facing the Wizards, Snyder discussed the more nuanced ways the Jazz are judging their season.

“The way to get better is to not to be satisfied with the fact that you’re winning,” Snyder said, “but to continue to look for ways to improve.”

That will be a more appropriate measure for the Jazz this year after they’ve seen long win streaks each of the last two seasons, only to lose earlier than expected in the playoffs.

Last season the Jazz had three streaks of at least nine wins, while two seasons ago they had a 10-game win streak, and still never made it to the conference finals.

“I think it shows the maturation of the team,” Snyder said. “Usually winning reflects that you’re playing well, but there’s no question if there’s a certain pick and roll action that’s hurting you, even though you won the game, you know you need to address [it].”

The Jazz will likely have another long win streak in them this season, and it will matter as the team is going to have an otherwise difficult time keeping pace with the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors, each of whom already have long win streaks of their own this season.

But outside of protecting their place in the Western Conference standings, cleaning up their weaknesses is probably a truer predictor of their future success than any streak of victories.

Jazz Got One Win Tonight

The Jazz did get one win tonight when former All-Star Deron Williams defeated longtime NFL running back Frank Gore in an undercard fight before Jake Paul fought Tyron Woodley.

Mitchell won a split decision 2-1 in the four-round fight that featured about two and a half-decent rounds of boxing before the two former professional athletes got tired.

The fight came off the rails when after landing a few punches midway through the third round, he pushed Gore out through the ropes and into a ringside camera.

After Gore regained his composure, he too pushed Williams to the ground and nearly out of the ring.

During the final round, both fighters were clearly exhausted and mostly exchanged light jabs to run out the clock.

Williams won the fight 38-37, 37-38, 40-35, but after the decision, admitted he probably wouldn’t step back into the ring.

“Iā€™m glad I had the chance to come out here and do it,” the former Jazzman said, “but like I thought coming into this, Iā€™m one and done.ā€

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Jazz Home Struggles Continue In Loss To Wizards