In a year full of inconsistencies, one theme around team has stayed consistent: the Utah Jazz don’t bring enough heart, effort, and intensity to win meaningful basketball games.
It’s disappointing. We’ve all seen how incredible the Jazz are when they play to their fullest potential. They have the ability to take on any team in the league. However, it seems as if every time they play an opponent, they also play against themselves. For whatever reason, they can’t seem to get out of their own way and pull things together. They can’t play perimeter defense for a whole game, they can’t share the ball for a whole game, and they can’t play like a team for a whole game. It’s hard to watch.
Speaking of which, just look at this defense by Donovan Mitchell. How do you expect to win a playoff series when this is the most defensive pressure you’ll give:
Mitchell had a good 3-4 feet of space between him and Spencer Dinwiddie on the initial drive, yet somehow gets blown by. That’s lazy, unfocused, and unacceptable defense.
Or here, where Dinwiddie (again) faces little pressure from Mitchell and gets an easy layup:
On this play, Rudy Gobert couldn’t help because Maxi Kleber had already hit four threes on the night. As a result, it parted the sea for Dinwiddie at a crucial moment of the game. It simply can’t be that easy for Dallas.
What makes all of this even worse is that Mitchell showed that he can defend when he cares. Look at this great stop he makes a minute later:
Unfortunately, the film shows more clips that resemble the former than the latter. The Dallas Mavericks completely threw away their offense in the fourth quarter and started targeting Mitchell. If the Jazz want to go anywhere in the playoffs, they need Mitchell to defend better.
Fortunately for Mitchell, the blame doesn’t solely rest on his shoulders. Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, and Royce O’Neale all had their fare share of embarrassing defensive plays. Just look at how easily Jalen Brunson gets past Bogdanovic, here:
Or how Brunson toys with Royce O’Neale and gets the easy and-1 bucket:
Again, it can’t be this easy for anyone, at any point in the game. O’Neale is supposed to be Utah’s best perimeter defender. Yet per NBAstats.com, Dallas shot 50% from the field when defended by him. In the fourth quarter, O’Neale had the worst net rating on the team at a shocking -22.7. Then, to somehow make matters worse, O’Neale had multiple weird and borderline dangerous plays:
The play where he hits Brunson from behind might get O’Neale suspended. It was a dangerous play where Brunson could have gotten more hurt than he did. It’s not acceptable. Simply put, the Jazz need more from Royce O’Neale than 0 points, 4 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 4 fouls, 1 dangerous play, and a minus-13 plus/minus in 32 minutes.
Nonetheless, the series continues. Unfortunately for Utah, nothing gets easier from here. Luka Doncic will likely return for game 4 and bring a whole new set of defensive challenges and difficulties for this team. If they lose, we’ll officially be in the middle of witnessing the sad and disappointing collapse of this era of Jazz basketball.