The Jazz allowed the Orlando Magic to start the game out as the aggressor and the Jazz were late to respond. The players had opportunities to turn the game around but made poor decisions and often weren’t on the same page. They made mistakes.
But no mistake was quite as frustrating as the breakdowns Utah had in transition, allowing the Magic to score 19 fast-break points en route to a 107-100 win over the Jazz.
“People are getting those types of advantages because we don’t get to the next play,” Snyder said after the loss. “That’s a frustration. And that should be a frustration for all of us, not just me.”
It’s not just that the Magic scored off of Jazz turnovers, or that they were able to beat the Jazz on the break, it was how they did it. The Jazz were often found jogging rather than sprinting back or just watching the play from behind when they should have been trying to get in front. The problem was that there was no effort.
On this play Trent Forrest misses a shot, the Magic secure the rebound and then pass it backward to Gary Harris, giving the Jazz even more time to get down the court and set in their defense.
Instead, the Jazz don’t hurry back or offer any pressure or resistance. Recognizing this, Harris drives right past the Jazz defense for an easy bucket. It just looks lazy and Harris comes away with a smile on his face because of how easy it was.
The bucket by Harris sparked a 15-4 run for the Magic in the fourth quarter, a run that saw the Magic retake the lead.
During that stretch, the Jazz let the Magic get the better of them on fast breaks more than once, including in the play below, in which Joe Ingles watches a Jordan Clarkson pass become a turnover and then is too slow in trying to get to the ball. Meanwhile Forrest just jogs alongside the play with no urgency at all.
By the time Harris is scoring the ball on the other end, R.J. Hampton has also raced in front of the Jazz just in case he needed to rebound for a putback.
“We’ve got to run back first and not give those teams life, give them layups and dunks,” Rudy Gobert said. “Then they gain confidence, especially young teams. It was really hard for them to score in the half court, and to get good shots in the half court. And we just gave them confidence, and then they feel good, and then they hit some shots that they maybe wouldn’t be hitting as much, if they don’t get those layups in transition.”
But this wasn’t a problem just against the Magic. The Jazz don’t have the excuse of saying that they were tired on the second game of a back-to-back set or that their poor performance in transition was an anomaly. This had happened the night before in Miami, when the Heat would just pass over the top of the Jazz on the way down the court.
And it happened in the Jazz’s first loss of the season in Chicago when they gave up on the play so early that the Bulls were able to get offensive rebounds off transition attempts and capitalize on the run.
“Last game of a road trip, you can’t succumb to that or use that as an excuse and be like ‘We’re tired and this and that.’ No,” Donovan Mitchell said. “In order for us to be the team we want to be, we’ve got to be able to do that ... we’ve got to get back. We didn’t make that a priority and now, two losses in a row.”
The reason this is so frustrating is because the Jazz’s coaching staff harps on the importance of transition defense. They talk about it in film sessions, they talk about it during practice, they talk about it before games, and the team is reprimanded for their failure in that area after games.
It’s not as if players are being asked to do something difficult, they just aren’t executing the first step of their defense.
“It’s a pretty basic thing,” Ingles said. “It’s not a brand-new play that we’ve put in that you might forget or a new way we’re playing defensively. It’s just run down there and load up the floor.”
If this was something that happened in the first couple of games of the season it would be a little bit of an easier pill to swallow for the Jazz. But for the most part this is the same team that’s been playing together for the past two season and they’ve proven in the past that they can execute on the break and that their defense can hold up in transition.
The job ahead of them is to watch the film from this road trip and try to get back to the better habits that they’ve had in the past and to make sure they make things like transition defense their top priority, because if they keep letting teams get out and run, it’ll be a difficult habit to break.