SALT LAKE CITY — After a big, exciting win earlier this season, Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder said he’d allow his players to celebrate and pat themselves on their backs for about five minutes. After that, it was time to move on and get ready for the next game.
The same concept applies to the Jazz’s current predicament.
They were a complete no-show Wednesday night. They acted like a listless group that appeared to be disinterested in competing against the Minnesota Timberwolves. These highly paid professionals embarrassed themselves with incompetence in front of fans who ultimately pay their exorbitant salaries through ticket sales, merchandise purchases, cable subscriptions, concessions, etc.
A team that’s presumably headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2012 was “crushed,” as Gordon Hayward described the 107-80 debacle, by a 25-win squad that is lottery-bound.
“I think it’s hard to pinpoint one thing,” Snyder said. “We didn’t have energy. We didn’t execute. Usually we can make up for poor execution with a lot of energy. Sometimes if you don’t have great energy, you’re really tight and connected, but we just didn’t execute. We had no juice and the result wasn’t very pretty.”
It wasn’t the biggest loss of the season, but it really was. It’s much easier to swallow a 30-point setback on the road against the Golden State Warriors than it is to get pounded by 27 points at home to a sub-.500 team.
But how did a loss — in which Snyder pointed out that Utah was below average in all aspects of the game — even happen?
“For one, they kept scoring on us. That’s deflating. For two, our spacing was bad,” Hayward said. “We didn’t play with force, so we had no energy. We had no balance. We had no pep. Now you’re missing shots short, whatever have you. They come down and score again. It compiles. It’s a snowball effect. We just didn’t have it tonight.”
Utah got lucky in a way because the Clippers also lost badly at home, 122-103 to Houston. That kept the Jazz (37-24) one-half game ahead of L.A. (36-24) for the fourth spot in the Western Conference playoff standings. Warning: Memphis (36-25) is only one game behind and OKC (35-35) is only 1.5 back.
If there are any more letdowns like Wednesday's loss, the Jazz will quickly find themselves in the seventh spot looking at a first-round matchup against San Antonio. Have fun with that.
Despite that scary scenario, Hayward didn’t flinch when asked if he’s worried about positioning and damaging losses like this one.
Which brings us back to the concept that Snyder pointed out after that big win. In the NBA, you can’t spend too much time celebrating victories or mourning losses.
“Not concerning for me,” Hayward said. “We’ve got to move past it. We’ll come ready to play on the next one.”
The next one is Friday night against another sub-.500 team, the 10-win Brooklyn Nets, who have the worst record in the NBA.
The Jazz must be thinking: Thank you, schedule maker.
“You have to take (Thursday) to rest up, put this one behind you,” Hayward said. “We’ll be all right come Friday. We’ll be ready to play. We’ll make sure of that.”
Center Rudy Gobert said the Jazz need to toughen up. It was clear they still had a bad loss hangover after falling 109-106 to the Thunder in Oklahoma City the previous night.
“It’s the NBA. We got 82 games and a few months. We got to come out ready and be tough mentally,” Gobert said. “Every time we’re a little tired, we just play like we don’t want to show that we’re tired. It’s not how it should work. All of us, we got to be tougher.”
Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau cut the Jazz players some slack. He knows every team suffers inexplicable losses.
“Utah is a terrific team. Quin has done an unbelievable job with them,” Thibodeau said. “Over the course of a season, you have a couple of games like that. Everything went our way. I thought they missed some shots that they normally make early on. It sort of took off from there, but the one thing about them is they play hard no matter what. They didn’t make shots tonight, but they still played hard as heck.”
Perhaps. They certainly looked like … heck.
But that’s in the past. After a day off Thursday, they’re moving on.
“You can’t get too down on it,” Hayward said. “It’s very frustrating, for sure. You want to play well every night, but it’s not going to happen. After I leave talking to you guys, I won’t think about it one bit.”
JAZZ NOTE: Shooting guard Rodney Hood will miss his second straight game with right knee soreness. This will be the 14th game this season Hood has missed with knee issues and the 19th overall. Utah is 8-10 without its starting shooting guard.