Jazz Loss In LA Conjures Past Playoff Nightmares

Feb 16, 2022, 11:44 PM

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert defends Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (Photo by Katelyn Mulc...

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert defends Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before, the Utah Jazz blew a huge lead against an undermanned team in Los Angeles just when it seemed like things might be turning in their favor.

After winning six straight games to open February, the Jazz fell apart in the fourth quarter against the Lakers, ultimately losing 106-101, and leaving the team with a terrible taste in their mouth heading into the All-Star break.

Donovan Mitchell scored 37 points, but LeBron James 15 fourth-quarter points and 33 overall were too much for the Jazz to handle.

Playoff Nightmare Deja Vu

Throughout the season the Jazz have referenced last season’s game six collapse against the shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers as something they couldn’t let happen again.

The Jazz season ended last year after the Clippers miraculously erased a 22 point without halftime lead and beat the Jazz 131-119 without Kawhi Leonard.

On January 17, the Jazz let the Lakers erase a nine point fourth quarter lead without Anthony Davis and ultimately lost 101-95 in LA.

On Wednesday, the Jazz let the Lakers erase a 12 point lead with 6:35 left to play in the fourth quarter, once again playing without Davis.

“We had plenty of chances to make plays to win,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “But we put ourselves in that position, it can’t be that easy to give up 13 points.”

Despite the goodwill the Jazz had built up opening the month with a blemish-free record, the team once again looked helpless against a small ball opponent, even when its own superstar was nearly impossible to stop.

Just as he did against the Clippers last season, Mitchell dominated the opposing defense scoring 37 points on 13-24 shooting and 5-11 from the three-point line.

However, the rest of the Jazz starters were nowhere to be seen on the offensive end as Mike Conley, Royce O’Neale, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Rudy Gobert combined for just 36 points on 13-32 shooting.

Conley and Gobert had a particularly brutal game combining to shoot just 4-12 from the floor as the Jazz were outscored by 25 and 27 with the two players in the game.

“There’s no way we should have lost this game in my opinion,” Mitchell said. “Credit to them, give credit where credit’s due but we let this game slip.”

O’Neale had a strong third quarter scoring 10 points to help push the Jazz lead to double-digits but committed a series of inexcusable unforced turnovers in the fourth quarter which led to easy Lakers points.

With Davis lost to an ankle injury midway through the second quarter, the Lakers had to play James at the center, and the Jazz never figured out to combat it.

Gobert regularly got pulled out of the paint late in the game which sent the Jazz perimeter defenders scrambling to find Lakers players cutting to the basket or stationed at the three-point line.

Russell Westbrook scored nine fourth quarter points playing off James, while Austin Reaves knocked down a clutch three in the final minute as the Jazz defense left him wide open above the arc.

The Jazz are in a better spot now than they were in mid-January, but Wednesday night’s loss was a stark reminder of just how quickly the tides can turn on the team.

“This is an unfortunate way to go into the All-Star break because it’s a game I think we felt good about,” Snyder said. “We felt good about the way we were playing, and then we didn’t and we lost the game.”

Heading Into The All-Star Break

The Jazz now have a week and a half to recover from their loss to the Lakers and turn their attention to the second half of the season.

Snyder discussed how difficult the season has been for the team since the new year.

“Having gone through what was a pretty demanding January and of finding some things in that, the break is a timely one,” Snyder said. “It can take a lot out of your team to go through some of the challenges that we went through.”

The Jazz won just four of their 16 games in January before answering with six straight victories to open February before falling in LA.

But rather than have this team focused on carrying over their play to open the month into the second half of the season, Snyder said that can disrupt the purpose of the time away.

“You’re always going to All-Star break with an idea of what you want to do coming out, and you’re just thinking a lot about it — try to shut that down a little bit, because that doesn’t really help you get refreshed,” Snyder warned.

As for the risk of losing that momentum during the break, the coach doesn’t think it will be an issue.

“I’m not worried about if we’re playing well coming back and kind of losing that,” Snyder said, “I don’t see that being the case.”

Snyder, who is a notoriously diligent worker, also plans to use the break to get some much-needed R&R.

“I sleep right,” the coach joked. “Honestly, for me, being around my family and my kids, that as much as anything reminds you this is a game. Basketball is what we do and we love it and we’re grateful, but it doesn’t love you back.”

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Jazz Loss In LA Conjures Past Playoff Nightmares