Painful Jazz Season Comes To Predictable Close
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz season is over after a 98-96 loss in Game 6 to the Dallas Mavericks at home.
The Jazz played one of their better games of the series, showing fight until the final buzzer, but ultimately they had too few answers for Luka Doncic and the Mavericks.
The franchise now enters what is likely to be a tumultuous offseason with question marks about the team’s roster design, coaching staff, and front office.
Familiar Foes Haunt Jazz
The storylines that haunted the Jazz in losses all season once again reared their ugly head in their season-ender against the Mavericks once again.
Despite holding a double-digit lead in the second half, the Jazz were outscored 36-19 in the third quarter and faced an uphill climb throughout the final period.
The loss was the Jazz’s 18th of the season after leading by double-digits, and their 15th when leading by double-digits in the second half.
The Mavericks’ third quarter run was fueled by red-hot three-point shooting as the Jazz failed to match up with yet another five-out perimeter attack. Dallas knocked down 8-12 threes in the quarter to outscore the Jazz by 17 over a 12 minute period, and never relinquished the lead.
The Jazz knew they had issues defending the perimeter last year in their season-ending loss to the Los Angeles Clipper, and never addressed the problem over the summer.
In the fourth quarter, the Jazz tied the game twice but never overcame Dallas due to a lack of offensive production to close the game. Despite holding the Mavericks to just 21 points in the fourth, the Jazz managed just 24 points on 8-22 shooting and 1-10 from the three-point line.
Meanwhile, all six of the Mavericks’ field goals in the fourth quarter came from the three-point line, shooting 6-13 from downtown, and 0-3 inside the arc.
The Jazz were the league’s best offense during the season, but that number dipped to 10th during the fourth quarter. Similarly, the Jazz owned the 10th best defense during the season but saw that ranking drop to 15th in the final period.
Throughout the season, the Jazz players promised to shake these issues throughout the year and talked of a moment in the future when their in-game woes would finally be fixed.
Time and time again Quin Snyder talked about wanting the Jazz to play their best basketball in the playoffs, but with a roster that was finally healthy, they came up short for the third straight year.
Ultimately the Jazz differed their problems until later and later in the season, and finally, they looked down and realized there was no more room to kick the can further down the road.
Jazz Painful Season Comes To An End
With the enormous expectations mounted on the roster heading less than a year removed from entering the playoffs with the best record in the NBA, the Jazz season has come to an end.
By nearly all measurements the season was a failure, with few associated with the franchise escaping blame.
The front office failed to address obvious defensive moves last offseason, leaving the roster once again to be embarrassed repeatedly on the perimeter in the first three games of their opening-round series against the Mavericks.
The Jazz coaching staff failed to diversify the team’s schemes, preferring to double down on the same playbook that failed to beat the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round of the playoff series.
It also failed to provide ample opportunity for development to rookie Jared Butler after a tremendous preseason showing, leaving the Jazz with a still relatively unknown asset heading into the summer.
Jazz players who did see the floor failed to execute the coaching staff’s game plan repeatedly throughout the season, abandoning the best offensive rating in the NBA for selfish, me-first basketball in crucial moments.
The team’s ownership also made a bizarrely timed addition to the front office, bringing in former Boston Celtics executive Danny Ainge midseason with no real clear explanation of what the new face of the front office planned to do with the team.
Even though the Jazz didn’t make any major moves at the deadline, Ainge’s mere presence felt like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of the players on the roster.
On the court, the results were even worse.
After jumping out to a league-best 7-1 start, the Jazz lost four of their next five games in mid-November and never regained their top footing.
A 12-2 month of December gave way to a miserable 4-12 January derailed by COVID-19, injuries, and rumors of Donovan Mitchell wanting off the roster if the Jazz didn’t make it out of the first round.
The team answered their difficult January with an impressive 8-1 February, only to regress to an 8-9 March, and an 11-11 close over the final quarter of the season.
During their January slide, center Rudy Gobert made ill-timed comments about his teammates’ poor defensive habits when compared to the league-leading Phoenix Suns.
Gobert and Mitchell repeatedly had to address one another’s comments with the media during practice and after games as the two faces of the franchise never seemed to shake their “unsalvagable” reputation, regardless of its accuracy.
Players on the Jazz took issue with reports of the team’s performance and chemistry, taking to Twitter to react to reporters directly.
Coach Quin Snyder fought back against the use of certain statistics to tell the team’s story, only to cite multiple incorrect numbers in an extended statement about the narratives growing about the Jazz’s disfunction.
Included in Snyder’s soliloquy was an examination of the team’s multiple blown-double digit leads, of which there were 18 that ended in losses for the club. That included Game 3 against the Mavericks when the Jazz led Dallas 60-50 in the second half, only to fall 104-100, and again in Game 6 after leading 53-41 at the half.
Ultimately, separated by just a handful of enjoyable winning streaks, the Jazz dramatically underperformed this season, and it came to a fitting end against a scrappier, albeit less talented Mavericks roster.
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