SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz are in the midst of a rough stretch, having lost three straight. It’s not so much the fact that they’ve lost three games but how they’ve lost them that is alarming.
It’s not as if the Jazz have run into a team on a hot streak, or that they’ve faced them with a depleted lineup or any sort of extreme circumstances. The Jazz have been flat and played poorly, unable to pick themselves up when things go wrong.
“I love our coaching staff. They break it down, every detail. That’s why this hurts a little bit because at some point you can give us every answer to the exam but we’ve got to go out there and do our own part.” — Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell
When that sort of thing happens with an NBA team, the blame can go one of two ways: toward the players or the coaching staff.
The Jazz have at least one thing going for them. Despite their poor performances and the results that have followed, they are in agreement that Quin Snyder and his staff are not at fault.
“I love our coaching staff,” Donovan Mitchell said Monday night. “They break it down, every detail. That’s why this hurts a little bit because at some point you can give us every answer to the exam but we’ve got to go out there and do our own part.”
From a casual observer, it could be very easy to feel like Snyder isn’t motivating his players and that he isn’t coming at games with the right schemes or plans. But, this is the same man that was issued a technical foul on Monday night for ferociously screaming at officials in defense of Mitchell.
Snyder is also the same coach that led the Utah Jazz to the league’s second best defense last season, the league’s best defense in 2017-18 and the third best defense the year before that.
Yes, there has been some turnover on this Jazz team, but that isn’t the reason for the Jazz currently owning the 14th best defensive rating and the second-to-last over the last three games.
That drop-off has been a result of breakdowns on the court. Missed rotations, failure to help, lapses in judgement, selfishness and sometimes downright laziness on the defensive end.
“It’s obviously a team thing,” Joe Ingles said on Monday morning, before the Jazz’s 131-111 loss to the Suns. “The hard part of that is everyone has to be connected and linked in so we’re all doing the same thing and doing it at a high level. The coaches can’t go out there and do it.”
Each player can run through a list of things that they can do better. They can watch film and dissect their movements and point out each mistake and how to correct it. But as Ingles said, the NBA is a team sport and righting the ship is going to take each player being connected. That’s something the Jazz know they’re capable of.
“It’s not like we haven’t seen what we can be,” Mitchell said. “Like we haven’t seen our chemistry and all that. So having losses like the past three especially are like, what are we doing?”
Figuring out what they’re doing wrong is the easy part. There’s video evidence. Figuring out why they’re doing it wrong is the harder part, and there’s almost certainly not an easy answer or even an answer at all.
The hope for the Jazz is that before Wednesday night, when the Boston Celtics show up at Vivivt Arena, the players will wake up from whatever stupor they’re in and attack the rest of the season in a way that they know they can.
We’ve all seen them do it. They have the talent and know-how to hang with the league’s better teams.
“We’ve got to show it,” Mitchell said. “We talk the talk, we’ve got to walk the walk.”