clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

On the Utah Jazz’s path from good to great, every game deserves a critical eye

They need to recognize their mistakes and shortcomings because if they don’t, those weaknesses will be exploited in the postseason. There’s no room for moral victories, only room to improve

Atlanta Hawks guard Brandon Goodwin (0) is fouled by Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (10) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Atlanta, Georgia. “We love to get our wins however we get them, but we’re not a team that doesn’t hold each other accountable,” Conley said after the Jazz beat the Trae Young-less Hawks on Thursday night.
John Bazemore, AP

There are few different ways that NBA teams react to a win or loss, and how they do so often defines where they are in their growth process.

There are the teams that will lose a game and focus on the bright spots, or win an ugly game and take the W no matter how it came to them. These are usually the rebuilding teams or the teams on the edge of playoff contention, and moral victories matter.

On the opposite end of the spectrum there are teams that are so confident in their abilities and their talent level that they’re just riding through the regular season, which is a means to an end. These are the great teams that are built for the playoffs and that’s where they’ll shine.

Then there are teams that fall into the middle, the good teams that are working toward being great. They will win games, but the W is no longer enough to make them completely happy.

They need to be critical of the portions of the game that went wrong, they need to recognize their mistakes and shortcomings because if they don’t, those weaknesses will be exploited in the postseason. This is where the Utah Jazz are. There’s no room for moral victories, only room to improve.

“We love to get our wins however we get them, but we’re not a team that doesn’t hold each other accountable,” Mike Conley said after the Jazz beat the Trae Young-less Hawks on Thursday night. “We’re a team that definitely looks at every single detail, every small situation, and looks at something for us to fix or a lesson to be learned. Tonight we had plenty of those lessons, plenty of those times where we made mental errors, made mistakes and that kind of lacked effort in certain situations.”

There was a lot to like about the win over the Hawks, which came to the Jazz pretty easily. Rudy Gobert was an absolute force in protecting the paint, Mike Conley completely changed the tenor of the game in the third quarter, Bojan Bogdanovic completely took advantage of the Hawks perimeter blitz and played beautifully in the paint, and there were great moments from the other usual suspects as well.

But there were also some moments that weren’t so great — some really off the mark passes, the Jazz giving into the Hawks pressure on the 3-point line by settling for a lot of mid-range isolation plays, not pushing the ball and using pace to break down the Hawks defense.

“I didn’t think we ran as well as we needed to in the first half,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “Those are possessions that we can build on that just get the ball moving and get everybody touches and get more catch-and-shoot 3s. We didn’t finish at the rim real well in the first half either.”

None of this is to say that the Jazz are playing poorly or that they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do. They’re the No.1 team in the Western Conference with a 17-5 record and are playing well. The Jazz know that. But they also know that they could have adjusted and adapted better in the first half against the Hawks and that when the postseason comes around they’ll have to adjust to things quicker because they’ll be facing teams that are a lot better than the Hawks.

This is a really good position for the Jazz to be in and a great time of the year for them to be analyzing some of the smaller mistakes that they make. It’s exactly the right mindset to have as a team that is working toward being great.

“We’re playing a high enough level to be able to win the game, but we can’t rely on that and we know that,” Conley said. “We have to continue to work.”

The work continues on Friday when the Jazz play the second game of a back-to-back against the Charlotte Hornets. And, even if they beat the Hornets, there will still be room for improvement.