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Utah Jazz 5-game skid shows inconsistency and lack of focus

Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder yells during the game as the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets play an NBA basketball game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. Denver won 98-95, giving the Jazz its fifth straight loss.
Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder yells during the game as the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets play at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. Denver won 98-95, giving the Jazz their fifth straight loss.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — There’s a thing that the Utah Jazz do when they are asked about what they need to do, whether they need a win, their record, or really anything. The answer usually goes something like this:

“The win isn’t the focus. What we want, is to get better.”

But, the Jazz aren’t getting better. They actually seem to be getting worse.

The Jazz do care about winning, so there’s some of that philosophical approach that is hyperbole, and it all sounds great when the team is winning 19 of 21 games and is one of the hottest teams in the league.

But after a 98-95 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, the team’s fifth straight loss, what is the message that Jazz coach Quin Snyder sends to his team?

“We haven’t played well, we’ve played sporadically and we’re not as good so we have to find that again,” he said after Wednesday’s loss. “There’s no easy answers. When you have adversity on the scoreboard and in the form of losses, that’s your look in the mirror.”

As the Jazz look in the mirror, they have to come to terms with the fact that they are on the worst losing streak the team has had since March 2016.

In the most recent loss, they became complacent against a Denver team that was limited to just seven active players on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Jazz are not boxing out on rebounds, they’re throwing away the ball, they’re falling asleep on switches, they’re taking bad shots, they’re allowing the offense to stagnate, and they’re doing all of this against good teams, which is making it all seem that much worse.

The recent skid constructs the idea that the Jazz aren’t truly a part of the Western Conference’s upper echelon because it’s the the upper echelon handing them defeat.

“I feel like we don’t have the mentality of a very good team,” Rudy Gobert said of the team’s five-game losing streak. “When you have a team that’s on a back-to-back and you’re up 15, that’s when your focus has got to be at the highest level. That’s when you’ve got to give the last punch. They’re probably going to give up if you’re up 20 to 25. Instead we just choose to get comfortable.”

Even if the Jazz stick with their motto of focusing on the positive, the most recent examples are directly tied to the negative.

There have been moments and flashes of the team that won 10 straight. They were up 15 against the Nuggets. Gobert was playing great post defense on Nikola Jokic in the first quarter. Donovan Mitchell was creating open looks.

Then the Jazz fell apart and Jokic ended up with 30 points, 21 rebounds, 10 assists and two steals, Gobert was losing out on rebounds, and Mitchell was forcing the offense.

All of the good things fell away and for five- to six-minute stretches the Jazz played like they were newbies to the NBA.

“No one has any illusions that we’ve been playing well and that it hasn’t translated,” Snyder said. “We had moments where we were playing well and we had moments that we weren’t very good at all and that type of inconsistency is not going to translate to wins.”

After each of the Jazz’s four losses leading into Wednesday there was a little bit of hope in the locker room, a sense of “this isn’t who we are.”

Maybe this is what the Jazz have needed. Maybe they’ve needed to come away from a game, so displeased with their effort that it forces them to face their complacency and loss of focus.

“Jamal Murray had 31 points on 12 of 26 shooting,” Donovan Mitchell said. “Way too comfortable. It’s tough when you don’t guard. It’s tough when you don’t do the little things. I had one assist and four turnovers. That’s where my head is at. Stepping up.”

Every player on the Jazz needs to step up. The Jazz have to do better than get a 15-point lead and then fall asleep on the defensive end. They are going to have to face and beat the better teams in the Western Conference.

It’s not going to matter what philosophical approach Snyder drills into his team, and what mantras are repeated throughout the locker room. The Jazz have to play like they want it more because right now results and records and wins really matter and the teams that want it more are beating the Jazz night in and night out.