The Utah Jazz are no strangers to winning big.
In the history of the league, no team has had more double-digit victories through 32 games than this year’s Jazz squad.
Mike Conley and company, however, are still getting acquainted with crunch time this season.
The Jazz battled but fell short in Miami on Friday night, losing 124-116 to Jimmy Butler and the Heat.
“I thought tonight we really ran up on a team that really out-executed us down the stretch,” Conley said. “They made plays when it mattered most.”
The Jazz trailed by eight points when Heat guard Jimmy Butler hit a step-back jumper with 4:05 left in the fourth quarter. The Jazz answered with a quick 7-0 burst over the next 90 seconds.
But that was as far as their rally would take them before turnovers and missed shots dropped their record to 26-7 on the season.
| Don: 30p | 6r | 3a | 3s | 2 3pm
Bojan: 17p | 3 3pm | 2r
Rudy: 15p | 12r | 2b | 1a | 1s
Mike: 14p | 7a | 2s | 2r | 2 3pm
JC: 13p | 4a | 3 3pm | 2r
Royce: 8p | 6a | 4r | 2 3pm | 1s
Derrick: 6p | 1r | 1b#podiumpostgame | @podiumhq pic.twitter.com/u45YGg5gAD
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) February 27, 2021
“I thought it was our spacing in certain situations offensively,” Conley said of the key issue. “We had guys driving into crowded lanes and the Heat were making great plays on the ball and tipping balls out and taking charges. We have to be better spaced and stronger with the ball.”
The Jazz had trouble slowing down Butler, who finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Point guard Goran Dragic, who was out of action when the Jazz beat the Heat in Utah earlier this season, scored 26 points off the bench.
Donovan Mitchell scored a team-high 30 points on 11-of-26 shooting. And on a night when the Jazz shot just 35 percent from 3, Jordan Clarkson had 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting.
“I just missed shots,” Clarkson said. “Thought we had great looks, especially me. Just didn’t make them. Just one of those nights.”
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said his team needed to be more precise in its execution on both ends of the floor to overcome its poor shooting night.
“Teams are always going to pick up their level when you’re playing well,” he said. “We dribbled too long. We didn’t have good spacing. A lot of little things we have to do better. Obviously, we weren’t good enough tonight.”
Even with tonight’s closely contested finish, the Jazz have seen the fewest crunch-time minutes in the NBA this season by a sizable margin. The Jazz are now 8-4 in games in which the contest is within five points in the final five minutes. They have played only 20 crunch-time minutes in all. The Los Angeles Clippers have played the second-fewest such minutes: 13. (To contrast, the Indiana Pacers have seen 86 crunch-time minutes on the year.)
Mitchell believes Friday’s loss will be a learning moment for the team with the league’s best record.
“These are learning opportunities,” he said. “You want to win through the learning opportunities. It’s tough to see that, when you lose a tight game like that, good things can come from it. But there are definitely things we can take away from this game.”
• The Jump’s Rachel Nichols wants everyone to sit back and enjoy this Utah Jazz squad.
If you needed the Jazz blowing out the Lakers to measure how good Utah is, you haven’t been paying attention – the Jazz were already for real. So stop fixating on how far this freight train can eventually go, and take a little time to enjoy the ride: pic.twitter.com/DzQDm83epB
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) February 25, 2021
The Jazz complete their Sunshine State back-to-back with a game against the Orlando Magic on Saturday night. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.