Since ESPN gave the Utah Jazz the best title odds in the league a few days ago, the Jazz have dropped two straight games. Tonight’s loss came against a well-coached and talented Clippers team, who outhustled and outrebounded Utah all night long. This loss drops Utah to 4-3, putting them 8th in the Western Conference. That’s how tight the west is - there simply isn’t much margin for error.
Rational Reaction #1: The Jazz need to crash the defensive glass much harder
Allowing offensive rebounds and 2nd chance points has been a problem in all 3 of Utah’s losses so far. The Lakers and Kings grabbed 11 offensive boards each, and tonight the Clippers pulled down a ridiculous 18 rebounds on the offensive end. The Jazz simply have to be better at boxing out and attacking the defensive glass to finish the possession. All 5 players on the court need to work to secure the rebound. Half-hearted efforts tonight gave the Clippers far too many second (and third) chances on offense.
Rational Reaction #2: Mike Conley needs to be a lot better
Turnovers, poor decisions, bad inbounds passes, missed defensive assignments and switches. It hasn’t been a good start for Conley so far. With a veteran like Conley, it’s strange to see him in a slump for so long. Hopefully the switch flips soon, because Donovan can’t carry the offense by himself.
Overreaction #1: Donovan Mitchell is an MVP-caliber player this season
He’s scoring efficiently at all 3 levels, creating with the ball in his hands, making great reads and passes, and playing incredible defense. Mitchell, who had slow starts to his first two seasons, is averaging 26 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals per game on 52/44/78 shooting splits, and he’s been taking over in crunch time every time the team has needed him to (though tonight he simply ran out of gas).
Overreaction #2: Royce O’Neale is playing defense worthy of a 1st Team All Defense nod
Through the first 3 quarters of play, O’Neale held Kawhi Leonard in check, frustrating him and forcing miss after miss. Leonard was 1 of 9 from the field at halftime. It wasn’t until back-to-back threes midway through the 4th quarter that Kawhi finally got going and simply wouldn’t miss no matter what kind of defense Utah played. If O’Neale continues this level of defense, he’s going to get some recognition eventually - especially if Utah is a top 3 seed near the All Star break
Underreaction: Ed Davis’ injury is going to cost the Jazz 4-5 games over the next 4 weeks
With Davis out, the Jazz are sorely lacking in quality big men who can rebound and defend. Tony Bradley still has a long way to go on the defensive end, and guys like Jeff Green and Bojan Bogdanovic are physically outmatched against bigs like JaMychal Green. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jazz look for a veteran big (or another undrafted rookie who ends up being amazing) to plug that hole while Davis is out.