Jazz enter All-Star break on the heels of a loss and have many questions to answer when they return
Is this team ready to contend for a title? Or are the inconsistencies too much to overcome in the final 24 games of the season?
LOS ANGELES — The Utah Jazz haven’t figured out how to play at a consistent level, they haven’t really defined who they are through the 2021-22 season, and they still seem to lose focus at key moments in games.
The All-Star break is upon us and the Jazz will have just 24 games left to figure everything out before the playoffs begin. Are they concerned that there are still so many unanswered questions about this team, this late in the season?
“It can’t,” Donovan Mitchell said after the Jazz lost 106-101 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night. “If we’re worried about that then we’re not worried about getting better.”
The Jazz’s loss to the Lakers highlighted the flaws that have plagued them all season and it sent them into the All-Star break on a disappointing note rather than a high one.
The team was on a six-game win streak that had shown a competitive edge and determination along with focused defense and a reliance on effort. But on Wednesday they lost that edge and fight in the second half against a team that they were leading by as many as 14 points.
The Jazz go into the break with a 36-22 record on the season. In 10 of their 22 losses this season, the Jazz had a lead of 10 or more points and let it slip away, and eight of those lost double-digit lead games have been against teams with losing records.
The Jazz have multiple losses to the bottom dwelling teams of the league and have not beat any of the league-leading teams when they’ve been at full health. Sure, they’ve beat the Warriors, but it was without Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Yeah, they beat the Bucks, but it was without Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton.
The Jazz have shown flashes of what they can be, and they certainly have the talent to be a contender this season, but they haven’t shown that they can compete on a consistent basis and that they can do it against the elite teams of the league.
But the Jazz are refusing to let their minds wander down a negative path.
The coaching staff and the players are hoping that some time away from the game will allow them to not only physically recharge, but to also clear their minds and come back to the game on Feb. 25 with some clarity and a renewed sense of focus.
“Come back ready to go,” Mitchell said. “We have no choice. It’s not like we can say anything else. We have no choice but to be ready.”
When the Jazz come back from the All-Star break, there will be many questions to answer — Can they hang with the top-tier contenders? Can the defense find consistency? Can they match their skill with determination and mental focus? Are they a team ready for a title run, or is this team just not ready?
It’s not like the Jazz can’t prove that they have what it takes. They still have a tough schedule ahead of them that is ripe with opportunities for them to finally turn the page and make a statement. But time is running out.
The Jazz have gone into the All-Star break with the sour taste of defeat in their mouths, and it’s up to them to wash it out when they get back.