Just over two months ago, I wrote an article detailing the Jazz’s blowout losses and their response in games after each of those losses. At that point, we’d had ten really rough games where it appeared the team didn’t show up. Losses to Chicago by 24, Toronto by 24, Portland by 32, Atlanta by 33 (read that again if you’re a glutton for punishment), were some of the highlights of the lowlights, if you will.
Discussed in that article was the team’s increasing resilience, the catalyst of which seemed to be Trey Burke with ice in his veins. We saw that again this last week with his game-winning three-pointer against the Magic. True, the Jazz have been significantly better since Burke’s return from a broken finger to begin the season. But where do the Jazz mark on the resiliency scale with just a few weeks left in the season? And what have we seen in the last couple of months? Let’s start with one of the last paragraphs in that article:
“That catches us up to our current situation: the horrible Minnesota loss where the Jazz shot a franchise-low 28.8% from the field. How will the team respond? In a fun coincidence, we get to see that tonight against the very same Wolves, but on our home court. The latest word is that Gordon Hayward will try to play tonight after missing the last five games. Will he be rusty? Or will he be able to be the guy who gets all his teammates involved while also putting up solid points and rebounds?”
That Minnesota game was the last game tallied before the article. How did the Jazz respond to the 26-point shellacking by the pesky Wolves in Minnesota? Unfortunately, it was a slightly-less-embarrassing 15-point loss to Minnesota at home. Gordon Hayward was back after missing five games with a hip-flexor injury and had an incredibly efficient game with 27 points on 10-17 shooting (he was also 2-5 from 3PT and 5-6 from the free-throw line), to go with five rebounds and five assists. Enes Kanter, Marvin Williams, and Richard Jefferson were each held to 4 points, leaving only Burks and Evans to reach double digits outside of Hayward. Not the best response game after losing to the same team the game before by 26 points.
Luckily, the game following that, the January 25 game against the Wizards, providing a salve as the Jazz were able to squeak by with a three-point win, shooting 41.7% from three (all of Burke’s FG’s, in fact, were three pointers).
The next blowout loss was a 15-point loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles on February 1. I was there at that game and the only bright spot was being able to have good conversation with family and friends while the Jazz laid an egg. Burke was 2-13 from the field, Hayward 3-13, and Williams 3-11, while Favors was resting a hip flexor injury.
How did the Jazz respond to that loss? Another 15-point loss, this time at the hands of the Raptors in Salt Lake City two days later. Hayward and Burke each had eight points in the loss (shooting 3-11 and 4-14, respectively), again, without Favors.
Maybe the next game would be a better response game? Sadly, again without Favors, the Jazz lost soundly—by 22 points—to the Mavericks. The Jazz shot under 41%, with Burke going 5-15, Hayward 3-7, Burks 0-7, and Favors, in his first game back after missing several games, 2-6. Luckily (or perhaps unluckily, depending on your beliefs on the importance of a top pick in this year’s draft), the next game provided a better, more resilient response to the string of poor showings and losses: a five-point win at home against Miami. Marvin Williams led a balanced attack with 23 points, while the Jazz were able to hold LeBron to 13 points.
The Jazz didn’t suffer any more blowout losses for a couple weeks after that, perhaps buoyed by an easier schedule, or perhaps with some players extra motivated before the trade deadline. Whatever the case, the Timberwolves were once again the catalyst for a patch of lackluster play, downing the Jazz by 17 points on February 22, with Kevin Love picking up his first triple-double. As is the case of several of this bad losses, Favors was out, injured. But he returned the next game, where the Jazz were able to bounce back and beat Boston by 12, with another balanced attack: Burks scored 21, Favors 20, and Williams 19.
The resilience was short-lived as another player, Kyrie Irving, recorded his first-career triple-double against the Jazz just several nights later, leading the Cavaliers to a 20-point route of the Jazz. Utah followed with a tough, hard-fought, three-point loss to Indiana, showing they still had some fight left in them, but that, unfortunately, was either a case of playing up to the competition, or some not very hardy resiliency, because the next game saw a 26-point loss to the hands of league-worst Milwaukee.
That snowballed into a 13-point loss to Washington, followed by a 27-point loss to New York, with the next game a 12-point win at Philadelphia to stop the bleeding. Once again, however, the resiliency was short-lived, as the Jazz lost by 18 points to a sharp Spurs team on March 16. Once again, that game was the catalyst for a couple of disappointing losses—the first a franchise-worst 38-point loss to the Houston Rockets the next day, and a ten-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies two days after that. Only a last-second three-pointer by Trey Burke kept the Jazz from losing the next game, last week’s against the Magic. I don’t even want to touch on last night’s loss against Detroit right now. Too painful. Too raw.
What can we learn from this? We’re seeing a team that, all too often, lets a bad blowout loss turn into a string of poor performances. Is that from youth and inexperience? Is that from missing key players due to injury? Is it coaching? Is it the season-end-nearing wearing down of a team that wasn’t very deep to begin with? Whatever the case, hopefully it’s something our core of players can figure out how to manage better for next season, because some of these losses have been brutal—both for the players and fans alike.