The Utah Jazz had their three-game winning streak snapped at the hands of reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The end result notwithstanding, there’s no doubting some things went right for the Utah Jazz during their Monday evening road bout with the Milwaukee Bucks. The team knocked down a franchise record 21 3-point shots in the contest and connected on better than 50 percent of its field goal attempts overall, Bojan Bogdanovic had another strong effort with 24 points and Tony Bradley had a nice night in relief of Rudy Gobert.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo dropped a 50 piece for the Bucks and the vaunted Jazz front surrendered 74 points in the second half en route to a heartbreaking 122-118 loss in Milwaukee.
It’s the latter point that smarts; getting lit up by a superstar is one thing — continually allowing sizable advantages to dwindle on the back end of games is a recipe for disaster.
Utah led this one by 13; but in home games against the 3-14 Golden State Warriors and the 6-11 New Orleans Pelicans, the Jazz band watched as 20-point leads became hard-fought four and eight-point wins down the stretch.
The Jazz have essentially been running a clinic on how not to close out games. For a team with championship aspirations, that’s bad hat, Harry.
Over the last six games, the Jazz are getting outscored by 10.1 points per 100 possessions in the second half of games. And while it was the Gobert-less defense that got exposed by the Bucks on Monday, offensive woes have also played a large part in allowing opponents to get back into games.
During that same stretch of games, Utah is allowing nearly 116 points/100 poss., which is really bad, but they also scored just 105.6 points/100 possessions in second halves, which is well below average.
Clearly, this was not what fans envisioned when the Jazz broke the bank to bring in Bogdanovic, Mike Conley and a host of other talented offensive players over the summer. In fact, the only positive second-half player for Utah over this span has been Royce O’Neale with a net rating of just 0.5.
When he’s been off the floor, the squad’s net rating swings nearly 35 points/100 poss. in the wrong direction. Without question, injuries to Gobert and Ed Davis and a lack of depth at the power forward position are both killing the Jazz right now.
It’s no time to overreact or panic, the team is still developing its on-court chemistry and familiarity and Coach Quin Snyder’s system and the Jazz are doing alright for themselves at 11-6 on the year, but things definitely aren’t getting easier any time soon.
The Jazz still have four games left on their current road trip, including bouts with the Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors. And, after that, they’ll have LeBron James and the LA Lakers to contend with.
Maintaining a high level of focus and execution on both sides of the ball over 48 minutes as opposed to just the first 24 is paramount if the Jazz want to survive this stretch unscathed.
Once Gobert is recovered from his ankle injury and back in the fold, the defense should sort itself out. In the meantime, though, Utah must take an all-hands-on-deck approach to stopping the opposition and find some consistency offensively.
Otherwise the Jazz are going to find themselves with ground to make up on the Western Conference table.
Update (11/26): Statistics edited to reflect Bucks game.