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Utah Jazz: Lack of practice time turns Jazz into 'The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight'

SALT LAKE CITY — If ever there was "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight," Monday night's shaky shooting performance by the Utah Jazz would definitely qualify as Exhibit A.

After all, Utah shot just over 31 percent from the field, including 22.7 percent from 3-point range, and couldn't even connect consistently from the foul line — 68.3 percent, missing 13 attempts along the way — in an 88-81 preseason loss to Portland at EnergySolutions Arena.

And while the Jazz certainly couldn't shoot straight Monday, Utah second-year head coach Quin Snyder attributed much of his team's offensive struggles to the fact that they've been "The Gang That Hardly Ever Got a Chance to Practice."

Indeed, Snyder pointed out following Monday's loss, and again after Tuesday morning's practice session, that his team has had very little time to actually work on its offensive efficiency since the preseason started with a trip to Hawaii earlier this month.

Perhaps one man's paradise is another man's pain in the pineapple. And it can drive a coach bananas.

"We've practiced three times in 11 days since we left for Hawaii, so right now for us, there's a premium on trying to find some things out during the games," he said. "And then it's kind of reversed for us — usually you're practicing and then playing; we're playing and then practicing on some of the things we see during the games.

"So it's not surprising to me that we have hiccups. We were flat (Monday) night; we looked like we were jet-lagged. It's always kind of a delayed reaction going from West to East, with the four-hour time change, two days later. We were off, off, game, off, so in five days, one game, no practice and then (a game) last night.

"Some of that, that's not to accept it, but it's important for me to remember," he said. "For our players, it's not to overreact to what was a subpar performance on a lot of levels."

It was a collectively crummy shooting performance in Monday night's home-court defeat, with plenty of guilt to go around.

Gordon Hayward, their leading scorer, was 3 for 15 and said afterward it felt like the Jazz were "stuck in the mud."

Big man Derrick Favors went 2 for 11, second-year shooting guard Rodney Hood was 3 of 11 and point guard Trey Burke was 2 for 8.

And from 3-point range, Hayward, Hood, Burke and Joe Ingles were a combined 5 of 19 for — ugh! — 26 percent.

"Our efficiency was pretty bad,” center Rudy Gobert said of Monday's dismal showing. "Our passing, we were playing without real force, with no force, we were just moving along, and at the end we had a lot of late shot-clock bad shots.

"We shoot pretty slow. I feel like we're slow, we're still thinking in the offense about what we should do, so it slows us down a little bit. It's going to get better, day after day, working on the plays and learning to play with each other. ... I think we'll be all right."

Gobert, who took just two shots in Monday's game and made one of them, said Coach Snyder didn't seem overly dismayed by their offensive struggles.

"He just says that we've got a lot of work to do, and we're not worried," Gobert said. "We're not worried. We've just got to keep doing what we're doing and keep working hard in practice and it'll come."

Snyder was philosophical after Monday's loss, saying "... this is a good opportunity, really. It’s a true look at where we are. So now we get a chance to practice and try to clean some stuff up where we can be more efficient offensively and hopefully make some shots, too."

And on Tuesday, after having a night to sleep on it, he realized that cold shooting nights are something that every team in the NBA deals with from time to time.

"I think it's inevitable with any team," Snyder said. "I think a lot of teams, during the regular season, go through some of this. I think young teams do so more than older teams, and I think in the preseason, even more so."

Monday night's setback wasn't the only time the Jazz have struggled to make shots. In last Friday's 101-85 loss at Phoenix, the Jazz managed just 40 percent shooting, including 29 percent from beyond the arc, and shot 69 percent from the foul line.

Thankfully, this week offers a little bit more practice time than they've had up to this point since the Jazz don't play again until Sunday.

"We need to practice a little bit, and then we need to play, and then we need to evaluate," Snyder said. "We scrimmage on Friday. We practiced today, but it's a recovery day. You say practice, we're in the gym, right? So it's not ideal.

"The flip side of it is there're benefits for us from the trip. We've got to find out some good things and really come together as a team. But coaches always want more practice, right?"

They sure do. And while the Jazz intend to be a team that hangs its hat on strong defensive play, the offensive end of the court is obviously still a work in progress.

And, hopefully, getting more practice time in the weeks ahead might help them avoid being "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" too often in the future.