This late into the NBA season, most coaches will tell you that there are no moral victories. A loss is a loss — it’s reflected in the standings and playoff implications.

But at the same time, not every loss is considered equivalent to the world coming to an end. Sometimes, external circumstances stack the cards, allowing teams to search within and find both the positive and negative.

These perspectives are what Quin Snyder is taking after the Jazz fell 111-103 to Luka Doncic and the Mavericks on Monday night.

“The story of this game is us being down 20 on the road and getting to within a few possessions,” Snyder said postgame. “We haven’t quite got to the point we want yet. … This game is a good example of showing some things we can do.”

Snyder is entirely correct — there are significantly more positives to take away from the game than just a loss. It’s not a defeat that should bring shame, but rather one that should bring hope that the Jazz could be elite by the time the middle of April comes around.

The standards in which Utah entered Monday were already heavily favored for the Mavericks, making the game one of the most difficult of the season given the opponent and circumstances.

It was Utah’s third game in four nights, all of which came on the road as part of their five-game road trip that began with them leaving Salt Lake City 10 days prior. It was also the second game of a back-to-back against an opponent they’d already beaten twice this season — a team who desperately needed the win more than the Jazz did.

Also, Dallas entered Monday night well-rested, having not played a back-to-back since returning from the all-star break. Doncic, an MVP frontrunner, was also given Saturday night off, allowing him three full days of rest before facing Utah.

Circumstances don’t get much more dire than this — and yet the Jazz found themselves overcoming a 20-point deficit to make it a two-possession game with less than two minutes left. If not for a missed foul where Doncic hit Donovan Mitchell in the head, Utah could’ve found themselves within three, making the ending much more thrilling.

“Obviously, we want to win every night, but I think we have learned a lot on this trip,” Rudy Gobert said postgame. “We just have to keep the right mindset, stay healthy mentally and physically. … Just stick together. I think we have a great opportunity to have a very good season.”

With that being said, what were the positives that Utah can take away from their game against Dallas — especially if these two teams meet again in the postseason.

One can definitely be the defense, particularly in the second half.

After being torched by Doncic in the first 24 minutes, leading to multiple open three-pointers for the Mavericks, Utah’s second-half adjustments were impressive. They were more aggressive in defending the pick-and-roll, doing better rotating to contest three-pointers. They also forced Doncic into uncomfortable situations late in the shot clock, getting the ball out of his hands and forcing others to make shots.

“I thought we did a better job of making decisions early, where we took some things away,” Snyder said. “I thought our communication was better defensively. We want to be better, but I thought we competed and worked. … We put ourselves in position, and we competed the whole time.”

Offensively, Utah’s fourth quarter showed what this team is capable of when in rhythm — the Jazz dropped 35 points in the final 12 minutes against the league’s No. 2 defense. Dallas had no answer for Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson, both of whom attacked the rim relentlessly that led to open shooters on the wings. They also got to the free throw line by attacking the rim, making 13-of-15 in the quarter.

“Donovan is an All-Star and is probably going to be in the MVP talk,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said of Mitchell. “He’s hard to guard, he’s shifty. He can get to the basket, he can shoot the three.”

In the end, the standings will reflect a loss, and there’s nothing good about that. But like Mitchell has said before, the world is not coming to an end. Utah will learn from this game, take in the positives and be back in Dallas at the end of the month to settle the score.

“We’ve got to be aggressive. … It’s about how do we respond on the 27th,” Mitchell said.


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