Another mic drop speech from Quin Snyder would be a bit too much to ask for in such short order, right?
Were it not for Snyder’s forceful words following a somewhat similar-looking defeat at the hands of these same Thunder late in the preseason, this might have been a good occasion to bust them out. In fact, Monday night’s OKC beatdown might have been even more emphatic, and this time it came during a far more important contest in the regular season.
On the court, the results weren’t all that different — only to an even larger degree. The Jazz trailed by as many as 34 and were close for about two minutes in the second half before things got out of hand. The second and third quarters, in particular, were some of the ugliest basketball we’ve seen from Utah this season, opponent aside. Perhaps worst of anything, for the first time this season we saw the Jazz fold when the going got tough — one could have effectively called the game midway through the second quarter when the deficit became 15.
There were a plethora of concerns for the Jazz tonight, many of which we’ll outline below, but the chief one has been lurking below the surface for some of the year before bursting forth against the Thunder: Utah’s defensive discipline has been waning to start the year, especially compared with the fantastic execution we saw to close last season. That precise level of play is obviously nearly impossible to sustain, but this is more than the moderate regression many had rightly expected.
The Jazz just don’t seem fully there mentally. They’re taking stretches off, something that this group became known around the league for not doing last year, per Dennis Lindsey. Quin Snyder told us for weeks that maintaining the level of mental focus the Jazz did last season was no easy task, and his sentiments are manifesting themselves. It takes an absolute ton to defend at the highest levels in the NBA, and this group is finding out quickly that, regardless of the talent on the roster defensively, every possession will be a grind. It didn’t take anything loud or complex from Snyder to break things down Monday night.
“It’s just a lack of concentration collectively,” he said. “I feel like we can be better.”
You can say that one again, Quin. Jazz fans are certainly wishing we wouldn’t be hearing these sentiments as often as we have early on, but this remains a young team with many tests ahead. Chalk Monday up to just another (painful) learning experience.
16.1 — Percentage points by which the Thunder outshot the Jazz from the field. If their lackluster defensive effort (against one of the best offensive teams in the league, no less) wasn’t enough, the Jazz did themselves even fewer favors by posting yet another miserable night from the floor at 38.4 percent overall and an ugly 26 percent from 3. They didn’t even seem to miss as many open shots as some other games tonight — the execution simply wasn’t there, even against a team that had been below average league-wide defensively heading into the game.
22 — Free-throw advantage for the Jazz, which only goes to underscore how badly they were beaten in basically every other aspect of the game.
0 — Number of blocks for Rudy Gobert, only the second time on the year he’s finished without a swat and only the third time in the 11 games he’s been active for that he didn’t register at least two. The Stifle Tower was somewhat muted tonight defensively before exiting with a back tweak.
“We are making dumb plays on defense that I know we know not to make.”
Kanter shows his diplomatic side: Enes Kanter’s first media opportunity in Utah since his infamous statements last season made him public enemy number one was a far more docile affair than many fans may have been hoping for. Enes was clearly coached up a little better this time around, clarifying that he never meant any ill will toward Utah’s coaches, players or fans upon his exit. He said he regretted being a bit too harsh the first time around, and was generally amicable both before and after the game — though the positive result for his Thunder certainly helped out with the latter. One can certainly wonder where this more appropriate Enes was back in spring, but at least he didn’t go for a heel encore.
Opportunistic in transition: Before this one got completely out of hand, the Jazz were actually keeping things competitive with some opportunistic defense and capitalization of some lazy passes and transition defense from the Thunder. The Jazz had five steals in the first quarter and took at least four of them back the other way with a purpose. Their efficiency in transition remains horrific at certain points, but this was a positive… until it evaporated completely along with Utah’s defensive effort from the second quarter on.
More over-help: Like transition play, this theme will continue to get run in these recaps until it stops. A big part of what’s lacking from Utah’s defensive focus is a simple understanding of which situations warrant help, and which will be opening up a good look for the opponent unnecessarily. Watch the following play that ends up in a 3 for Anthony Morrow:
Kanter gets the ball in the post against Rudy Gobert — as a reminder, one of the best individual defenders in the NBA who had already shut Enes down a couple times on the night. But for some unknown reason, with Kanter’s back still to the basket 15 feet away and with no immediate scoring prospects, Raul Neto crashes down to give help. Look where he is as Kanter — as a reminder, one of the worst passing big men in the NBA — has the simplest pass of his life out to a 40-plus-percent three-point shooter.
This is becoming an epidemic for the Jazz. Morrow was the beneficiary of multiple plays like these Monday night, which is just completely unacceptable for the Jazz given that shooting from deep is literally his only NBA skill, and he’s known specifically for his quick release. This is just a microcosm of a season’s worth of these sorts of errors, some more obvious than others. It could be a longer season than many had expected if the Jazz continue to have so many issues with simple defensive concepts, elements all the talent in the world won’t get them through at this level.