UTAH JAZZ

Jazz Drop Ninth Game In Last 11 Outings In Loss To Suns

Jan 27, 2022, 12:06 AM
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson drives against Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (Photo by Alex Go...
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson drives against Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz lost for the ninth time in their last 11 outings, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

The Phoenix Suns beat the Jazz for the second straight game, downing Utah 105-97 thanks to 43 points from Devin Booker.

The Jazz trailed by 21 after the first quarter but pulled within two late in the fourth quarter before ultimately coming up short in the loss.

Jazz Aren’t Heading in Wrong Direction

There are generally two directions a team that has lost nine of their last 11 can go; they can continue to drop games, ultimately fizzling out for the season, or they can respond with fight on the floor, and try to regain their composure.

If Wednesday’s loss to the Suns was any indication, the Jazz are still erring on competing.

After a disastrous first quarter that saw Booker outscore the entire roster 21-18, the Jazz fought back and gave themselves a legitimate chance at victory.

According to Quin Snyder, that fight is present in the team off the floor, too.

“We’re going in one direction,” Snyder said after his team lost its tenth game of the month, “it’s not down.”

The Jazz have maintained that despite the struggles off the floor, the team has stayed connected, including last week’s demonstration after shootaround that while those on the outside of the franchise may be feeling down by the losses, the team has kept cool heads.

After Wednesday’s loss, Snyder reiterated that the Jazz main focus at the moment isn’t the wins and losses.

“I want us to be the best version of ourselves at the end of the year,” Snyder said. “Who knows what’s going to happen.”

In light of the Jazz’s recent struggles, it can’t be ignored that they’re playing without their two best players as Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert missed both games against the Suns.

Though Snyder acknowledged their absence, he said it wasn’t solely to blame for the loss.

We’re playing without Rudy and Donovan right now,” Snyder said, “But that doesn’t mean we can’t run back [on defense] unless Rudy and Donovan come back and don’t run back.”

Mike Conley finished with 16 points and 10 assists, but instead, the team wasn’t willing to use Gobert and Mitchell’s absences as an excuse.

“In years past we’ve won games without guys,” Conley said. “We’ve still been able to play our game.”

The Jazz are hoping to get Mitchell back from his concussion this weekend during their two-game road trip which begins Friday in Memphis, though there’s no guarantee that he’ll be available.

Gobert has a strained calf, and though it’s not serious, the Jazz are progressing cautiously with the injury and haven’t played a definitive timetable on his return.

Whiteside Struggling After Covid

A look at the box score would tell you that Hassan Whiteside was one of the Jazz best players against Phoenix, recording a 16 point, 11 rebound double-double while leading the team with a positive 11 plus-minus despite the loss.

But the center committed four untimely fouls in the fourth quarter, including a technical foul late in the game that sealed the victory for Phoenix.

After the game, Whiteside explained the severity of his illness and other issues he’s dealt with since returning.

“I battled with COVID, I had a 104-degree fever in a basement for the last two weeks,” “I am just trying to come out here and get back in shape — being away from the team and getting back out here against the number one team in the NBA.”

But Whiteside isn’t the only member of his family that’s dealing with the virus, something that’s weighed heavily on him.

“Guys care, if I didn’t care… I care,” Whiteside protested. “I could be with my son right now, he’s got COVID. [Explitive] is tough out here.”

Whiteside played 34 minutes, the most of any Jazzman in the loss.

How Is Ainge Fitting In?

The NBA trade deadline is officially two weeks away as the Jazz sit in the fourth seed in the Western Conference, and own the sixth-best record in the league overall.

At this point, it’s clear the Jazz aren’t currently the best team in the NBA, but with better health, and a minor tweak here and there, they could be.

To add to the team’s overall desire to get better, the Jazz hiring Danny Ainge in mid-December added fuel to the fire that the team may be looking for a shakeup before the February 10 deadline.

With that in mind, there seems to be some implication that Ainge walks around the Jazz facilities with a cloak and scythe, mirroring the grim reaper more than the team’s CEO.

Snyder was asked about Ainge’s presence around the team and painted a different picture.

“It’s been great to have him in the gym, coming into practice to get a chance to visit and to talk, and those conversations are wide-ranging, some of them are telling a story or some of them are talking about the team,” Snyder said.

The Jazz are unlikely to make significant changes to the roster, but with the team’s recent defensive shortcomings on the perimeter, an upgrade or two aren’t out of the realm of possibilities.

But according to how Snyder described Ainge’s presence around the team, he’s not the heavy-handed executive that he was painted as during his time in Boston.

“Not just his experience, but his personality, his character, all those things — I think it’s a positive in a lot of ways as far as how it’s impacted our staff.”

The next two weeks may be tense for players on the Jazz roster, but having Ainge around the organization doesn’t appear to be making matters worse.

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