Following Wednesday’s loss to Houston, the Utah Jazz took full blame for what’s been a rough stretch of games. 

Throughout the postgame press conference, head coach Quin Snyder and players were asked about the state of the team. How did a team who looked like legitimate NBA title contenders just a few weeks ago suddenly drop six of their past seven games?

Of course, there has been a rash of injuries while being ravaged by health and safety protocols, but there were no excuses in their answers.

“We’ve been good in patches but obviously bad in patches,” Joe Ingles said. “I think it’s obviously shown recently that we’re not going to kind of walk in and just win any game by showing up.”

“We got too many black holes, too many up and downs during the game.” Bojan Bogdanovic added. “We gotta stay consistent in focus.”

Throughout all of the questions, there was a primary topic that Ingles, Bogdanovic, and Rudy Gobert consistently brought up — and for a good reason. Defense. Defense. Defense. 

“Some nights are tougher physically, mentally, for all of us, but when our life is on the line, you focus on what’s the most important? When we’re tired, what’s the most important?” Gobert said. “Right now, for everyone in this locker room, it should be defense. We should be like, ‘I might not make a shot tonight, but I’m going to do anything I can defensively.'”

It’s already a well-known fact that Utah has the league’s top offense, not just in scoring but also in rating. But to be a true championship contender, the Jazz know that defense has to be a massive priority. 

There was a much more concerted effort on that side of the court for the beginning part of the season, sitting near the top of the defensive ratings. 

With Gobert more than capable of cleaning up some mistakes, the Jazz were doing an excellent job of staying in front of their man, communicating and rebounding. But somewhere along the past few weeks, those priorities have faded into the background. 

“There’s a pattern of our group losing focus on things that we need to do to win the game,” Snyder said. “We haven’t played at the level that we want, you know, on both ends of the court. And that’s, that’s something for us to own and understand. … And not just correct but improve upon.”

That’s what makes Friday’s game against Detroit so vital to the Jazz moving forward. Beginning two days later, the schedule ramps up in a monster way as eight of their next nine games come against teams currently ranked in the top seven of each conference. 

Finding their rhythm on both ends of the court will be a huge confidence boost moving forward, which could propel this team to another long winning streak. 

But according to Gobert, it’s not just about tightening things up on offense and defense — Utah needs to find joy in the game again because, make no mistake, this team can win at NBA title. 

“I think it’s on us to really enjoy the game and really have fun, regardless of what’s going on,” Gobert said. “We are playing basketball for a living, so let’s enjoy it.”

Utah (29-16, 14-9 home / No. 4 Western Conference)
*114.8 Points Per Game (No. 1 in NBA)
*116.1 Offensive Rating (No. 1 in NBA)

*107.5 Points Per Game (No. 12 in NBA)
*108.8 Defensive Rating (No. 12 in NBA)

*Rudy Gobert: 15.9 points / 15.0 rebounds / 2.3 blocks / 71.3% shooting
*Bojan Bogdanovic: 18.0 points / 4.1 rebounds / 39.1% 3P-shooting
*Jordan Clarkson: 15.2 points / 3.5 rebounds / 26.0 minutes
*Mike Conley: 14.0 points / 5.3 assists / 42.9% 3P-shooting

Detroit (11-33, 4-19 away / No. 14 Eastern Conference)
*101.8 Points Per Game (No. 28 in NBA)
*102.1 Offensive Rating (No. 29 in NBA)

*111.5 Points Per Game (No. 24 in NBA)
*111.7 Defensive Rating (No. 24 in NBA)

*Cade Cunningham: 17.6 points / 5.4 rebounds / 5.1 assists
*Saddiq Bey: 15.2 points / 6.0 rebounds / 2.4 assists
*Hamidou Diallo: 10.8 points / 4.7 rebounds 

Mike Conley vs. Cade Cunningham
— With Donovan Mitchell out for Friday’s game — still in concussion protocol — Conley will more than have to make up for it both scoring and initiating the offense. He did a good job on Wednesday, finishing with 17 points and four assists, but he’ll need to replicate that performance. For Cunningham, he’s the No. 1 overall pick who’s had an up-and-down season thus far. A big performance by him gives the Pistons a chance. 

OUT — Jared Butler (G League – On Assignment)
OUT — Zylan Cheatham (G League – On Assignment)
OUT — Donovan Mitchell (concussion protocol)
OUT — Hassan Whiteside (health & safety protocols)

QUESTIONABLE — Killian Hayes (right hip contusion)
OUT — Luka Garza (Health & Safety Protocols)
OUT — Jerami Grant (Health & Safety Protocols)
OUT — Frank Jackson (Return to Competition Reconditioning)
OUT — Isaiah Livers (right foot soreness)
OUT — Chris Smith ( G League – Two-Way)

Time: 7:00 p.m. MST
Location: Vivint Arena / Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 1280 The Zone 


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