Sloppy Jazz Come Up Short Against Bulls 100 – 103

December 13th, 2017 | by Clint Johnson

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell’s (45) 32 points weren’t enough as the exhausted rookie couldn’t lift his team down the stretch of a close 100 – 103 loss to Chicago. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS).

Story of the Game

When the Jazz stared December in the face at the start of the month, they faced possibly the toughest month of basketball that would test any team in the NBA. The month started well with two wins then turned darker with three consecutive losses. Tonight’s three point loss on the road to the Bulls has the rest of the month’s prospects looking bleak. And that’s putting it optimistically.

Despite Utah’s horrid record on the road this season–now two and 10–this contest against the Bulls was likely the easiest contest of the month. But the team’s discombobulation since Rudy Gobert’s return from injury, largely a product of trying to find a way to utilize two high quality starting centers, continued, creating a remarkable night of futility from Utah’s starting bigs.

For years many in Utah have wondered how good Gobert and Derrick Favors could be as a tandem if only they could be healthy at the same time and mesh on the court. Both were healthy this game, as they have been for much of the season, and yet they were obliterated offensively by Nikola Mirotic and Robin Lopez.

The Bulls’ duo scored 45 points1 on 38 shot attempts. The two players led Chicago in both points and field goal attempts2.

Utah’s so-yearned-for duo fought back with eight points 10 shots.

Post All-Star break last season, Gobert averaged 16.7 points per contest on 70 percent shooting. This season with Gobert out, Favors averaged 17.8 points on 68 percent shooting. With them both on the court this year…

Utah is seven and 12. And the Jazz may not be a favorite in any game remaining this month.

This isn’t working. At all.

Stars of the Game

Superstar: Donovan Mitchell

The Jazz are simply asking too much of this remarkable young player. He once again led the team in scoring with 32 points on 26 shots, though making only one of his seven three point attempts on the night. He also notched a team-high six assists along with three rebounds, two steals, and a block. He once again played a game-high 37 minutes, and as the fourth quarter was winding down he was simply gassed. After falling to his stomach on a late turnover, he lay on the ground for a spell, dejected and exhausted. He needs more help, period.

Secondary Star: Rodney Hood

Hood delivered a solid return from injury with 15 points on 12 shots, including making three of four from long range. He made only a single shot in the second half, however, making a negligible impact late in an easily winnable game his team desperately needed.

Secret Star: Joe Ingles

Ingles production doesn’t jump off the stat sheet: only six points on seven shots (two of five from three) , though he did add eight rebounds and five assists. But his team-high plus-15 illustrates the stability he provides when on the floor–stability this team is in desperate need of with so much in flux currently.

Stats of the Game

7 – Jazz free throw attempts, a season low. With Gobert and Favors non-factors offensively, it drastically cuts down the team’s free throw attempts. Chicago out-shot Utah at the line by 14 attempts in a game that ended up being decided by a three-point margin.

11 – Bulls advantage on points off of turnovers. Utah coughed the ball up 16 times, 11 coming in the first half.

2 – The point variance between any two Jazz quarters. Utah scored 24 in each of the first and second periods and then 26 in the third and fourth.

9 – Made threes on 30 attempts. While the attempts reach the team’s stated goal for a game, Utah has made fewer than 10 threes on that many attempts only twice including tonight. Both were losses.

21/7 – Combined rebounds and blocks by Gobert (11/five) and Favors (10/two).

1/0 – Combined assists and three throw attempts by Gobert (the one) and Favors. In conjunction with the 10 combined field goal attempts, this illustrates how poorly the offense is using these players right now.

Sundries

  • The Bulls have now won four straight, a streak that parallels Mirotic’s return from head and face injuries resulting from a pre-season fight with teammate (and positional rival) Bobby Portis. Mirotic killed the Jazz with 29 and nine rebounds, but Chicago fans shouldn’t get too enthused at the recent win streak. Utah played uninspired ball for 48 minutes tonight on both ends of the floor and still lost by only three in Chicago.
  • Two weeks ago the Jazz offense was a buzzsaw slicing through opponents with long, crisp passes. Defenses have adjusted, staying home on the weak side of the court on quality shooters. The result has been a bevy of turnovers on skip passes as the Jazz try to force the ball to the weak side when openings for those passes just aren’t open.
  • While loads has been written about the struggles of Utah’s startling lineup with Gobert, Favors, and Rubio all on the court, what hasn’t been noted nearly enough is the shots that lineup is creating. Tonight the lineup played just over eight minutes. In that time, players took 16 shots. Rubio and Mitchell attempted 14 of them. The problem is far bigger than that lineup not scoring. The entire offensive scheme is made dysfunctional by that combination of players. The ball isn’t moving, be that to Ingles for kick out threes or either Gobert or Favors around the hoop. Quin Snyder’s motion offense has little motion of either players or ball as defenses invite guards to create shots for themselves. When Rubio plays off ball, defenses leave him wide open for threes that he’s missing.
  • Chris Dunn was four of 16 (25 percent) shooting entering the final two minutes of the game where he promptly hit two jump shots, one from 12 feet with 1:39 left and then another from 17 feet with 22 seconds remaining. Those are shots Snyder will give up down the stretch in any game and be happy with the result.
  • Rubio exited the game with 8:40 left in the fourth and didn’t return. In last week’s Oklahoma City loss, I criticized Snyder for leaving Rubio in as the Thunder stormed all the way back from a 12 point deficit entering the quarter. He didn’t repeat the mistake tonight, keeping two of Mitchell, Burks, and Hood on the floor to close the game. It wasn’t enough to win but Utah did outscore the Bulls by four in that 8:40; however, it also exhausted Mitchell to the point where he had nothing left to finish the game.
  • Utah’s remaining games in 2017 are a road back to back in Boston and Cleveland, then a trip to Houston after a day off, followed by another road contest at Oklahoma City with a home game against the Spurs the very next night. They close out with the Thunder at home, Denver and Golden State both on the road on another back to back, and then finally end 2017 with a home contest against Cleveland. It’s unimaginably brutal.

The Jazz are 13 and 15 and really need some answers. Three days off didn’t provide any before tonight in Chicago. The team and its fans can only hope a single day can do better before a Friday road contest against the East-leading Boston Celtics.

 

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
Clint Johnson

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