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Brad Rock: Utah Jazz will feel loss to Memphis on the other end of season

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) tries to shoot as Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) blocks him during an NBA basketball game at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) tries to shoot as Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) blocks him during an NBA basketball game at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — Three nights after a picturesque loss to Golden State, the Jazz let things turn ugly. Every night can’t be a glamour shoot.

For the second straight game, the Jazz were in a street fight. But the two games were as different as Memphis and the Bay Area. One was what Quin Snyder called a good defensive effort, despite allowing 124 points. Monday on their home court, they gave up 32 fewer points, yet looked far worse.

Playing Memphis isn’t as dazzling as hosting the world champions. But it’s dangerous in its own way. The Grizzlies aren’t supposed to make the playoffs, but they’re good enough to beat the Jazz, 92-84.

In the season’s third game, everything slowed down. Both teams made roughly one-third of their shots. Both missed numerous easy scoring opportunities. Neither looked like a playoff team.

Some nights are clunkers.

But so soon? Already the Jazz are a game behind where they should be, with a 1-2 record.

Memphis is just good enough to do this to teams. The Jazz know that, even if they didn’t play that way. It’s the unexpected losses to unremarkable teams that do teams in. Monday was a fender-bender for the Jazz.

After the high of playing the Warriors, Memphis was supposed to represent a chance for the Jazz to get back into their normal defensive posture instead of chasing opponents all over the neighborhood.

“There are always adjustments to your fundamental normal coverage. That one (Golden State) is a pretty big adjustment, because of the way they play,” Snyder said. “I thought we actually did a good job, if you go back and look at the tape.”

Tape or no tape, the Warriors scored 124 points.

“I wouldn’t say I’m excited, but I’m expectant and hopeful that we’ll be able to guard tonight the way we’re capable of guarding,” Snyder said before Monday’s game.

Not this time.

While the defense was enough to hold Memphis to 92 points, the offense was tortured. The Jazz scored 47 points in a single quarter of Friday’s game. They had only 46 at halftime three days later. Turnovers, offensive fouls, lazy shots and poor decisions interfered.

Sloppy is as sloppy does.

The Jazz had 15 turnovers. Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell, Derrick Favors and Ricky Rubio made 14 of 49 shots.

"After a great game that we played the other night, I don't see what happened, but we need to play more as a team," Rubio said.

The trick for the Jazz this year will be the same as for everyone else — eliminating unforced errors, i.e. losing to bad teams. Losses to good teams are acceptable casualties. Last year’s list of dumb Jazz defeats included the Clippers, Phoenix, New York, Brooklyn, Chicago, Charlotte and Atlanta.

Memphis isn’t terrible this year, but it’s not so good it should win in Salt Lake.

When only a couple of games separate upper-echelon teams from low ones in playoff seeding, silly regular-season losses take on added significance. That could have happened in their opener when the Jazz had to fight back from a 15-point deficit at Sacramento.

But on Friday they were anything but disinterested, losing on a last-second tip by the Warriors. Which reveals everything you need to know about the Jazz in the early season. They know the best teams and respond appropriately. Lower-echelon teams are nearly as scary.

Championship teams don’t let these things have much effect. Whether early-season games or late ones matter most is debatable. But there’s nothing wrong with winning early so the late-season games aren’t so crucial.

“They’re all kind of the same, obviously. That’s the obvious answer,” said Snyder. “I think you have to be aware how the schedule impacts some of those things. At the same time, schedule is never an excuse or a reason to say this isn’t our night. Obviously that’s not the mindset you want — or that we have.”

It was on Monday.

“I think (games) become more dramatic and seem to be more impactful later in the year, when there becomes fewer games, fewer opportunities,” Snyder said. “It impacts where you finish.”

Not if you start fast enough.