Four-Point Play: Utah Jazz Losing Streak Hits Five


The Utah Jazz continue to play the blues after a hard-fought loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Despite a strong start and an equally impressive third quarter, the Utah Jazz couldn’t close out against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, losing 94-88 at FedEx Forum. With the loss, the Jazz fall to 28-33 and have dropped five straight. The team now sits two full games behind the Houston Rockets for the No. 8 spot in the west.

Gordon Hayward led Jazz scorers with 18 points while Rudy Gobert grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked five shots. The rest of the Jazz struggled mightily, with the bench providing close to nothing. On the other side, Zach Randolph was huge for the Grizzlies, scoring 25 points and dominating Derrick Favors.

It was the Memphis bench that stole the game from the Jazz with their physical play,  outscoring Utah’s second unit 44-23. 100-year-old Vince Carter was plus-26 against players young enough to be his sons. Lance Stephenson taunted his way to 16 points and a Shaqtin’ play, while Mario Chalmers added 11 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals in a plus-32 effort.

For my money, losing is actually good for this team; a losing streak is even better. It forces the front office to think about what they could have done differently. It makes coaches think the same. Now everyone needs to band together and be willing to change things.

In the immortal words of Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

118. Final. 94. 211. 88

1) Hayward Not Stamping His Authority

Stats could fool you into believing that Russell Westbrook is an unselfish point guard; he averages better than 10 assists per contest. However, even the most casual fan knows that Westbrook takes terrible shots at the wrong time and will even neglect a wide-open Kevin Durant to get his own action at times. His assist stats are bloated up by Thunder’s offensive pace and efficiency.

The same could be said of Gordon Hayward.

I love data. It’s a great indicator of what’s happening on the floor. But, if you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything. People love to say that G-Time is one of five players this season to average 18.34256 points, 5.2343232 assists, and 4.2323243234234 rebounds while shooting .467924902402348 percent in 33.45345345432 minutes (these aren’t real numbers).

Whatever the actual stats might say, basketball is more than stats. There is a game within the game that fans and writers see, which data does not. They see how much a player steps up when the team needs him. Hayward has been missing in action for the past two games when it counted most. He took three fourth quarter shots against the Raptors and just one fourth quarter shot in Memphis.

While the Toronto game is understandable with Trey Burke going bananas, the Jazz were struggling in Memphis and Hayward either couldn’t shake off Stephenson or just didn’t want to carry the Jazz. He shoots a solid 46 percent in fourth quarter, but has been MIA recently.

Fans expect him to get going when the going gets tough. As the team’s star and a max player, it’s not unreasonable for Hayward to be expected to grab the bull by its horns.

Mantras like “teams are going to come up with a game plan to shut down Hayward and Hood,” etc. make excellent excuses. Every team has a game plan for the other team. Good players rise above that.

It’s easier to cite statistics and say that Hayward was plus-seven or shot over 50 percent for the game. However, Hayward’s impact during crunch time left something to be desired in Memphis.

2) Mr. Nice Guys

To say that the Memphis bench manhandled the Jazz is an understatement. Each time the Jazz got a double-digit lead, the Grizzlies bench pushed back until the Jazz wilted. Stephenson in particular did his thing, imposing his will and taunting Jazz players. He did this to Raul Neto

Imagine Karl Malone being there when Stephenson did that. The Jazz need toughness, particularly on the road. Right now, this Jazz team is a collection of gentlemen. Hopefully, Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey can find some bench players who can be tough as nails in the offseason.

3) Hood and Favors Drop in Efficiency

The Jazz’s post All-Star slump coincides with a drop in efficiency from Favors and Rodney Hood. Hood is shooting under 40 percent and posting a net rating of minus-4.6 since the break. Favors, meanwhile, has a net rating of minus-3.6 since since the break and has been less effective on defense.

He doesn’t look like the rim protector he was earlier in his Jazz career; that kid seemed fearless. As he’s adjusted his game to stay out of foul trouble, he has lost the urgency to go all-in when the team needs a boost. When Gobert goes out, there are times when opponents are scoring at will against Favors. Favors is seemingly challenging less shots and when opponents attack the basket, they are usually athletic and savvy enough to go around a “straight-up defender.”

Hood and Favors need to find a way to get back to doing what they do best.

4) Playoff Watch

The Jazz have lost eight of their last 10 games. Many have begun to write off their playoff chances. The Jazz are still well within striking distance at two games out of the playoffs. They also have another game against the Rockets, which could be a chance to narrow (or widen) the gap.

They could use a win streak (or a win to stop the losing streak maybe?). However, their March is going to get even tougher with games against the Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs coming up.

We’re about to see what this team is really made of.

Next: Utah Jazz D-League Affiliate Wheeling and Dealing

Next up for the Jazz is Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday. To say that this game is a must win for Jazz would be an understatement.