Jazz Flaws On Full Display In Loss To Rockets

Jan 19, 2022, 10:55 PM | Updated: 10:59 pm
Alperen Sengun of the Houston Rockets drives past Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles (Photo by Alex Goodlet...
Alperen Sengun of the Houston Rockets drives past Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz couldn’t stop their recent bleeding in a surprising 116-111 loss to the lowly Houston Rockets.

Houston is the worst team in the Western Conference and had won just six games on the road heading into Wednesday night’s matchup, but were by far the better team in their win over the Jazz.

The Jazz were playing without Donovan Mitchell, Hassan Whiteside, and Rudy Gay, but were hurt worse by their poor defensive performance than they were by a lack of bodies.

Jazz Are Bad Defensively

Regardless of what the overall defensive ratings say, it’s plain to see the Jazz are a bad defensive team.

The word is out around the league that the team’s perimeter defenders are susceptible to straight-line drives to the rim, and if Rudy Gobert isn’t in the paint to stop them, they’ll result in layups and dunks at will.

The Rockets opened the game with Jae’Sean Tate drawing Gobert as his primary defender, and he stepped away from the rim and hit two threes in Houston’s first three possessions.

That pulled Gobert out of the paint early in the first quarter and allowed Houston to relentlessly attack the paint as a result. Those drives to the rim either resulted in easy baskets against the Jazz defense or kick out opportunities for open threes.

The Rockets took advantage by connecting on 7-12 first quarter three-pointers and built on that offensive rhythm through the rest of the game.

“We just had multiple breakdowns over the course of the game in different capacities defensively,” Snyder said.  “We were helping when we shouldn’t have been helping and not recognizing personnel situations. [We’re] just not focused on the details of what we’re trying to do on the defensive end.”

Garrison Matthews one NBA skill is to shoot the three, and he can shoot it well beyond the three-point line.

The Jazz repeatedly failed to match up with the guard in the half-court allowing him to get loose for 10 three-point attempts, five of which he made, and another that sent him to the free-throw line.

“We weren’t communicating and reacting collectively in a lot of half court situations that gave them looks,” Snyder said.

The Jazz erased their early deficit and took a 13 point lead midway through the third quarter, but quickly gave it away thanks to an 18-1 Rockets run.

“We were playing great defense in the third and then we saw almost like something shifted,” Gobert said. “We had a lot of breakdowns, we gave some of the shooters’ wide-open threes.”

The shift that Gobert was referring to occurred when he left the floor and Udoka Azubuike stepped in. Usually, Whiteside would fill those minutes, but as he continues to miss games in the NBA’s COVID protocol, Snyder opted to go with the second-year big man.

While Azubuike tried to stay glued to the paint, the Rockets casually spread the floor with five players on the perimeter and took turns shooting wide-open threes.

When the Rockets would drive, too many Jazz defenders would collapse, failing to pay attention to their man which resulted again in easy passes out to the perimeter for threes.

Once the Jazz lost their composure, the Rockets carried their newfound confidence to victory.

Considering the caliber of opponent, the urgency that should have been present for the Jazz having lost five of their last six games, and knowing they were playing without their best offensive weapon, the level of attention and execution should have been significantly higher, and truly, it’s inexcusable that it wasn’t.

“It’s just a collective mindset that we have to have everybody from Rudy to Bojan to Royce to Trent to Mike to Joe, all of us,” Snyder said. “Defense is played collectively.”

With the time this roster has spent together over the last three seasons, these types of communication issues run deeper than a lull in the season. The roster simply doesn’t have the right pieces to execute what is being asked of it.

That means the team either needs new roster pieces or a new gameplan, and the trade deadline is a mere three weeks away.

Danuel House Jr. Tough Start In Utah

On Tuesday the Jazz announced they were re-signing guard Danuel House Jr. to a second 10-day contract, this time outside of the NBA’s hardship clause that allows teams to sign as many players as needed to fill their roster during the pandemic.

Outside of his 13 point, four rebound, four assist debut with the team in Toronto, just about nothing has gone according to plan for the veteran forward.

First, House Jr. joined the Jazz just before their game against the Raptors, suiting up for a team that was missing eight of its nine traditional rotation players.

But even in his first appearance in a Jazz uniform, it was clear House Jr. wasn’t playing at 100-percent. At several points throughout the Raptors game, the veteran was seen holding his fingers and grimacing.

As it turns out, House Jr. injured his finger shortly before signing with the Jazz.

“He’s been banged up,” Snyder admitted. “He dislocated his middle finger on his shooting hand just days before we picked him up.”

Despite the injury, House Jr. made three appearances with the Jazz during his first stint with the team, playing an additional 12 minutes in the team’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, and 15 minutes in the team’s loss to the Detroit Pistons.

Then, the forward caught another bad break when he came down with a virus that was circulating throughout the roster which was further complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“You spend time wondering if you have COVID and then you find out you don’t and you kind of convince yourself you do but you have to be away from the team to make sure it’s not COVID,” Snyder said.

“Some of the symptoms were harder on guys than the guys that actually had COVID, they just didn’t have the protocol situation.”

Despite his injuries, the lack of practice time traveling from Toronto, to Indiana, then to Detroit over just four days, and finally the flu he caught to finish his initial 10-day deal, House Jr. knocked down 4-9 three-point attempts while in a Jazz uniform and displayed some much-needed energy on the defensive end.

House Jr. played 11:27 against the Rockies and scored four points on 2-4 shooting while showing off some of his natural defensive instincts, and may warrant more time in the near future.

For the sake of both House Jr. and the Jazz, some better luck on the health front, and a little extra practice time could go a long way to determine whether he can help the team for the remainder of the season.

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