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Mental mistakes lead to Jazz’s first loss of the 2021-22 season

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) drives against Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
AP

CHICAGO — There were a lot of things that didn’t go right for the Utah Jazz on Saturday night, and for the most part, it was their fault.

In their first losing effort of the season, a 107-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Jazz were their own worst enemy and allowed themselves to be distracted further when the game started to get away from them.

As the game progressed, the Jazz were getting more and more frustrated by what they felt like were missed or wrong calls by the officials. The problem was that that they allowed that frustration to become a focal point.

The Jazz were also turning over the ball, not getting back in transition, missing reads and a bunch of other stuff. Had they focused more on the things that they were in control of, maybe we aren’t talking about them being 4-1 through five games. Instead, we might be talking about the Jazz still being the only undefeated team in the NBA.

“We did a lot of things wrong in our execution,” Donovan Mitchell said after the loss, “and then we’re looking to be bailed out by the whistle, so now you’re compounding those two things.

“At the end of the day, if we execute better, we don’t have to worry about getting those foul calls.”

Playing in the the first game of a back-to-back set, the Jazz were on the court without Mike Conley for the first time this season. That’s something that is going to continue with the veteran point guard expected to rest on the front or back end of back-to-backs.

That means that the Jazz are going to need a little more mental fortitude and better efficiency and production out of their remaining ball-handlers, namely Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles.

Those three players were responsible for 14 of the Jazz’s 20 turnovers on Saturday. Those 20 miscues led to 25 points for the Bulls.

Additionally, Clarkson and Mitchell combined to go just 14-of-46 from the field and 5-of-20 from 3-point range. They both seemed to be making things more difficult than they needed to offensively while also missing shots that they normally make.

Whether in their own heads, focusing too much on how the game was being called or just having an off night, the Jazz were giving into the pressure from the Bulls defense and then not making solid reads to counter.

Instead they were taking ill-advised shots, playing through too much traffic or coughing up the ball.

Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said the team never really seemed connected on the offensive end, which is certainly something that can happen when Conley isn’t on the court, but the Jazz are going to have to find a way to be connected without him.

No matter the result of Saturday, the Jazz don’t have too much time to sulk because on Sunday night they’ll be in Milwaukee taking on the reigning champion Bucks. It’s another mental test for the team.

Being able to recognize the mistakes they made but also be ready for another battle less than 24 hours later and not make the same mistakes would be more telling for the Jazz than their lapse in Chicago. Recognition is an important part of an NBA team’s growth, but how they respond is even more important.