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Refocused Utah Jazz hope to improve defensive discipline

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives past Utah Jazz forward Trey Lyles (41) for a layup in the second half of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, in Houston. Houston won 111-102. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)
Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives past Utah Jazz forward Trey Lyles (41) for a layup in the second half of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, in Houston. Houston won 111-102. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)
Bob Levey, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — After a much-needed day off, the Utah Jazz got back to the grindstone on Tuesday.

And, yes, we’re talking about practice.

It’s something that hasn’t happened often because of the team’s helter-skelter schedule, which has included more road games (10) than anyone else in the NBA, and not many substantial breaks.

“We’ve just had a tough stretch, a really tough stretch. It would’ve been a tough stretch if we were 100 percent healthy,” Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward said. “I think we were a little fatigued, both mentally, emotionally, physically. Guys are banged-up, but we’ve got to find a way to turn the ship around.”

The Jazz have lost four straight after beginning the season at 7-4, an impressive record at that point considering their road-heavy schedule and the slew of injuries they’ve encountered.

Fortunately for this struggling bunch, 10 of the next 12 games are at Vivint Arena.

“I think it’s good we’ll have some games here at home. We can try to get some treatment, get guys healthier, get in the gym more,” Hayward said. “A lot of it, too, is just us playing better. We’ve got to turn this ship around and that will start (Wednesday).”

Their first game in this home-sweet-home stretch is a rematch with the Denver Nuggets, who won the first battle, 105-91, Sunday at the Pepsi Center.

“I think it gives us a little bit more motivation,” Jazz forward Trey Lyles said. “They (Nuggets) beat us pretty good when we were there. Now we had a day’s rest and a day to practice. I think we’ll have a really strong attitude and try to get it back to normal.”

For the Jazz, normal means playing better defense.

They’ve allowed an average of 100.8 points in the four consecutive setbacks. They’d only given up 88.3 points per game in their previous four outings.

“We just have to keep pushing through. … We have to be more disciplined,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “That can translate into everything that we’re doing; that’s the consistent thing. No matter who’s on the court, no matter who we’re playing, no matter who’s injured, no matter who’s tired, no matter who’s got foul trouble, because those are the things that we can control.

“We can control our level of defensive discipline,” Snyder continued. “That’s what we’ve always been about. That’s been the constant that we’ve tried to maintain through winning streaks, losing streaks and all of the above. That would probably be my answer to a lot of questions at this point.”

Lyles noted that the Jazz spent a good portion of Tuesday’s practice simply chatting.

“We’re just trying to get back on track,” Lyles said. “We took a lot of time off today to talk as a team, just figure out things that we need to work on, things that we need to crack back down on.”

The biggest focus?

Defensive principles, including rotations, knowing where other guys are supposed to be on the court and, Lyles added, “just really digging down and making sure that everybody has that mindset so that we know that we’re going to get to this position because we know our teammate has our back.”

Hayward added that communication, from the coach and down, is important for the Jazz at this juncture, especially because they are experiencing so many health issues.

That medical problem, by the way, isn’t going away anytime soon. Derrick Favors (knee) and Alec Burks (ankle) have been ruled out against the Nuggets, while Joe Johnson (sick) and George Hill (thumb) are questionable.

“That’s what we we’re needing to figure out. That’s what we worked on today. A lot of it is communication, just talking to each other, being in the right spots,” Hayward said. “Some of it’s just execution. We’ve just got to do it better.”

Lyles believes the team will nail down those defensive issues, beginning against Denver.

“That’s what we did in practice,” the second-year big man said. “I think we’re going to come out looking refreshed and almost new (Wednesday).”

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