When the Utah Jazz return home on Wednesday to face the Brooklyn Nets, after wrapping up a five-game road trip on Monday against the Chicago Bulls, they will be finishing out a full month in which they’ve had just a single home game.
The Jazz played the Houston Rockets at Vivint Arena on March 12, but the last game at home before that was on Feb. 24, against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“We knew that this stretch particularly was going to be very tough physically and mentally. I think we all embrace that. We all know that we have to take care of ourselves. You have to eat right and you have to try to get as much sleep as we can and take care of ourselves.” — Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert
“We knew that this stretch particularly was going to be very tough physically and mentally,” Rudy Gobert said on Sunday. “I think we all embrace that. We all know that we have to take care of ourselves. You have to eat right and you have to try to get as much sleep as we can and take care of ourselves.”
After a tough defensive win over the Toronto Raptors on Friday night the Jazz are hoping that they’ve turned a bit of a corner. Whether it was the toll of the truncated regular season schedule, personal stress, or any other number of things, they Jazz hit a bit of a wall during the last few weeks.
Effort, focus and communication were all lacking and making the Jazz’s once top-five defense look weak and ineffective. After a loss to the Washington Wizards, the Jazz players and coaching staff all took a look at what was unfolding and knew that they couldn’t go any farther without addressing the defensive failings.
“I think that Wizards game really was when we all kind of looked at ourselves, and we realized that the picture we were looking at was ugly,” Gobert said. “I think it woke us up in a way and we saw that that wasn’t the team that we wanted to be. We want to be a team that takes every single defensive possession seriously.”
Rarely, if ever, are the Jazz or any other team going to have a perfect game, but they have a ton of evidence to prove that when they are more focused defensively, even when things aren’t perfect on the offensive end, they can come out on top.
The team hasn’t been quiet about their frustrations and they’ve harped on the need to start games with more energy, to not take defensive plays off, to stay hungrier than all other teams trying to knock them off their league-leading pedestal.
“When I talk about communication and being connected and those things, we know that when we’re tired, if we’re able to do those things [things will turn out ok]. Then when we are fresh, it’s going to be even better,” Gobert said. “It’s a long season, we knew before the season started that there was going to be a little less days without games, and we know it’s going to be like that to the playoffs and probably during the playoffs, too.”
This should be a good lesson for the Jazz. During one of the tightest schedules they’ll ever have to face as professional basketball players, they are also for the first time contending with getting the best shot of every team they face. With that, the defense is more important than ever and Gobert is right. They schedule is not going to get any easier and their opponents aren’t going to get any more forgiving, especially when the postseason comes.
So, now is the perfect time — the only acceptable time — to learn this lesson and turn things around.