Woodyard: Utah Jazz need to wake up now that NBA All-Star break is over

Woodyard: Utah Jazz need to wake up now that NBA All-Star break is over

SALT LAKE CITY — The trip to the Bahamas was fun.

So was exploring hiking trails around Utah and spending time with family in San Diego.

Even NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles was spectacular.

But now it’s time to get back locked in. Members of the Utah Jazz need to get focused.

All-Star break is over!

Just three games after the break, it’s certainly too early to panic as the Jazz have gone 1-2 to begin the second half of the season, but it’s not necessarily about wins and losses but more so how the team has looked in these three contests.

The team is averaging 18 turnovers, shooting 41.9 percent from the field and hitting only 25.6 percent of their treys.

The passion, energy and aggression they had before the break isn’t there, especially after Monday’s 96-85 loss to the Houston Rockets. Granted, the Rockets are riding a 13-game winning streak with the league’s best record, but that doesn’t justify the 22 turnovers, especially with most of them being unforced.

Utah also turned it over 19 times in Friday’s loss to Portland.

“I don’t think that this is a fixable thing as much as it is a maturation of a team,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “When something doesn’t go our way, whether it’s a call that we don’t like or someone makes a mistake or we miss a shot, those situations, if you let them continue to carry on, then you aren’t getting back on defense.

“Then you are not spaced the right way because your focus is on something that is over. It’s over,” he added. “You can’t control that. You can just control what’s going forward. To me, that’s a team that has to mature in that area, as far as just when things are hard and you make a mistake, being able to get to the next play and not make another one.”

Donovan Mitchell’s eight turnovers were a season-high for the Jazz rookie against Houston, while Joe Ingles, Ricky Rubio, and Royce O’Neale also coughed the ball up three times apiece. It’s wasn’t necessarily anything special that the Rockets were doing on defense, it was mostly the Jazz making silly cross-court passes, trying to split holes that weren’t there and making careless decisions.

Even with all the practice in the world, the mental errors need to be corrected instinctively. Guys know it, too.

“Turnovers. I had eight. Eight out of 22, that’s almost half,” Mitchell said after the Rockets loss. “It starts with me on that, and just being connected as a unit.”

Although the NBA season is long and has its peaks and valleys, Utah was clicking before the break. The Jazz were the NBA’s hottest team, riding an 11-game winning streak with the second-best defensive rating (97.7) over that stretch.

Defense isn’t necessarily the issue now, as the Jazz have returned from the break with the top defensive rating (96.5). On Monday, the Jazz even held the Rockets to their lowest scoring first half of the season with 39 points on 36.4 percent shooting, but they’re allowing the fourth-most points off turnovers (19.3) in the three games back while shooting the fourth-worst field goal percentage (41.9) around the league.

Ingles was also on a tear before the break, knocking down nearly 60 percent of his shots with three straight games of 20-plus points, but has returned to shoot just 34.6 percent from the field.

Utah (31-30) still has a shot to make the playoffs with 21 games remaining, but guys have to pick it up. They have to take care of the ball, knock down shots and play with some sense of urgency.

All the hoopla and hype is over, Utah is still 2.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot and in 10th place of the current standings.

It’s time to pick it up before Friday’s ESPN game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Jazz certainly shouldn’t be panicking, but they shouldn’t be comfortable, either.

“Go out there and do what we’ve been doing,” Ingles said after Monday’s loss. “I mean, it was one game. We obviously didn’t play great. Again, obviously credit to them, the way they play. They make it tough to play against. We get another chance, we play Friday. Get ready, get some practices in and move on to the next.”

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Published at Tue, 27 Feb 2018 18:45:00 +0000