For the Utah Jazz, Finding Consistency From More Players is the Key

Mar 20, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) greets Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) after the irgame at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeated Utah 107-100. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 20, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) greets Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) after the irgame at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeated Utah 107-100. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

If the Utah Jazz want to achieve more success to close out the season, they have to find a way to get more than two or three players to contribute on a nightly basis.

For the Utah Jazz this season, it has seemed like when it rains, it pours. And unfortunately I’m not talking about draining three-pointers.

The Jazz’s season has had its extreme highs and its extreme lows, and when those losing streaks have hit this season, they have really tended to hurt. After dropping last night’s road contest to the Indiana Pacers, the Jazz now find themselves on a surprising and discouraging three-game losing streak. And there’s no doubt that it’s been one of those painful ones.

What’s worse is that after falling to the Jazz last week, the Los Angeles Clippers (who happen to be Utah’s closest foe in the Western Conference Standings) went on to lose two more games and just like that the Jazz had a sizable three-game lead for the fourth seed in the West. However, after dropping the three recent games to the Cavs, Bulls and Pacers while the Clippers have won two straight, that lead has been trimmed down to a single game.

The Jazz play the Knicks on Wednesday while the Clippers play the Lakers and Mavs on Tuesday and Thursday before the two teams meet for a fourth and final time on Saturday. If both teams win those prior contests (as they very well should), then the winner of Saturday’s contest between the Jazz and Clippers will come away as the fourth seed in the West.

Utah was able to take care of business against LA last time those were the stakes, but if they hope to do so again, there’s no doubt that they’re going to have to play much better than they have of late.

And to be quite frank, for the Jazz to be successful to close out the regular season and make any noise at all in the playoffs they have to find more consistency from more of their key guys on a nightly basis.

There’s no questioning that this is a good team. If such wasn’t the case, they wouldn’t have 43 wins and be battling for the fourth seed in the West. And Utah has found that success because they boast a roster that is made up of stellar talents.

Gordon Hayward is an undeniable All-Star putting up career-highs in several areas and capable of exploding for 30+ points on any given night. Rudy Gobert is an elite rim protector and an effective piece of Utah’s offense. George Hill is an efficient and crafty sharpshooter capable of filling it up from both the field and from deep. Rodney Hood is a dead-eye from behind the arc and when he gets on one of his streaks he can be nearly unstoppable.

Joe Johnson is a savvy vet who has also shown on several occasions that he can be an effective scorer for Utah and several of Utah’s reserves such as Dante Exum and Joe Ingles have risen to the occasion when their number has been called.

Jazz fans who have watched this team have seen each of those kinds of performances from those key guys and are well aware of how accurate those descriptions can be. The problem is, however, that while perhaps one or two of these guys will get it going on certain nights, the Jazz have struggled to consistently get solid performances out of enough players at once to make them a dominant threat.

Although the old adage is that there’s only one ball and of course only so many points that can be scored in a game, it still seems like the Jazz could use more players stepping up on a nightly basis rather than dealing with so many of them being hit and miss.

To prove my point, let’s take a look at the box scores from each of Utah’s latest losses during this current three-game losing streak, beginning with the one against Cleveland on Thursday:

In this contest, Rudy Gobert was an absolute monster, dominating both ends of the floor with 20 points on 10-of-13 shooting while adding 19 rebounds and three blocks. When Rudy’s having that much of an impact, one would truly expect the Jazz to win.

But take a look at the rest of the team and you’ll clearly see why things went so wrong in Cleveland. Sure, all of the starters minus George Hill finished in double figures, but none of them shot all that well, particularly Utah’s two leading scorers as Hayward went just 4-of-14 and Hill went just 3-of-10. Furthermore, the Jazz bench was essentially ineffective across the board.

Yet in the loss to Chicago, it was a much different story despite the similar result:

Here, Rudy was the one who struggled offensively (yes for him 5-of-11 from the field is an off-shooting night) as did Hayward who went just 5-of-16, but George Hill had a relatively solid night, going 6-of-11 from the field to lead the team with 18 points.

Alec Burks and Dante Exum were decent off the bench, but nothing to write home about, while Favors’ replacement at the power forward spot, Joe Johnson, struggled immensely.

Finally, last night against Indiana, the script flipped once again:

Finally this time, Hayward was able to be Utah’s top dog in a big way as he finished with a career-high 38 points on an ultra-efficient 16-of-24 night. Gobert also played well on both ends of the floor and filled his role perfectly.

However, while Hill finished with 16 points on a respectable 41.2 percent shooting from the field, he was also absolutely ineffective in what has become one of his most crucial contributions to this Jazz team – three-point shooting. Despite being a 39.2 percent shooter from deep, Hill laid an absolute egg on Monday night, missing all seven of his attempts.

Furthermore, in his first game back from injury, Hood shot 40 percent from the field, but was plagued with foul trouble all night long and only played 15 minutes. Not to mention, Joe Johnson and pretty much all of Utah’s bench struggled to make any sort of positive contribution as well.

And these three games are just some of countless examples from this season. Some nights Hill and Hayward  have been on fire while the others have struggled. On other occasions, it’s been Hood and Gobert who have gone off while the others have been less effective.

The point I’m trying to make is that, regardless of who the specific players have been, the Jazz have fallen into an alarming trend this season, especially in losses, where only two, maybe three players play well while the others fail to make much of an impact.

Now, I’m fully aware that in some ways, that’s just how basketball goes. Not only is it a game of team runs, but also of individual runs as players can get hot or cold on any given night. And given that every player has his ups and downs, it’s impossible to expect them to be able to hit their ceiling in each and every contest.

The simple truth is that while Hayward is capable of 30-point outings, Hill has had several games where he’s shot better than 60 percent, and Hood has been known to cash in with four or more made threes in a game, those just aren’t things that can happen every night.

Nevertheless, the Jazz have had their greatest success not when one or two of their guys are doing amazing things, but rather when several players on the roster who see court time are simply efficient and contributing effectively.

You don’t have to go very far back in time to find a game where Utah did just that as in the win over the Clippers last week, the Jazz benefited from a very balanced night. Gordon Hayward had a team-high 27 points, but beyond him, George Hill, Rudy Gobert, Joe Johnson, Joe Ingles and even Dante Exum all played exceptionally well to lift the team to victory.

Such has been the case in a handful of other situations as well, but unfortunately the more common occurrence has been, as I said, that only a couple of guys have stepped up.

And while it’s unrealistic to expect a full 10-man rotation to be able to have excellent games night after night, the truth is that if the Jazz can improve from only having two or three guys turning in big games to consistently having even just four or five guys from among either the starters or the reserves step up and contribute on a nightly basis, it’s going to greatly increase their chances of success.

Particularly with the regular season coming quickly to a close and given Utah’s hopes of making some noise in the postseason, it’s going to become vital that they find a way to get more consistency out of more of their players each and every night.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be bad nights even from some of their top players and it certainly doesn’t mean that they’ll be perfect. But what it does mean is that despite potential struggles from one or two guys, others on the squad will have to find a way to step up and make up for any issues their teammates may be facing.

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Fixing Utah’s trend of benefiting from only a few solid and reliable performances night in and night out will be much easier said than done. Nevertheless, we’ve seen the overwhelming amount of talent on this team on several occasions and with so much at stake in the coming weeks for the Jazz, it’s time they put that skill into action on a more consistent basis.

If Derrick Favors ever returns and if Rodney Hood ever gets fully healthy, it very well could help Utah’s rhythm and depth, allowing players to settle back into their more comfortable role. But unfortunately, there’s no guarantee of that happening any time soon.

Therefore, Utah will have to simply adapt, rely on one another and find a way to consistently involve more players each night.

And if they are able to do so, we could very well see Utah take the dramatic leap in consistency and performance that we’ve been waiting for nearly all season long.

All stats courtesy of