MEMPHIS — The Utah Jazz have a couple things going for them as they begin another two-game road trip tonight near Elvis' old stomping grounds.
For one, they can't play much worse than they did Wednesday when they were annihilated by Atlanta, 110-87, at EnergySolutions Arena.
For another, they seem to feel right at home on the road this year — having racked up an 11-5 mark as visitors. So maybe it's not such a challenge that they're kicking off a stretch that includes seven of nine outside of Utah. That includes back-to-back away games tonight against the Grizzlies and Saturday in Houston.
"We've had success on the road," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "It will be good to get out there for a couple of games, I guess."
But center Al Jefferson took a page out of his coach's book and suggested the site of upcoming games does not matter.
"Regardless of where we play, the next game has to be better," Jefferson said. "We can't play the way we played (Wednesday) at home or on the road. We just have to be better."
Schedule-wise, things do appear to be laid out in the Jazz's favor.
Only one of their next six opponents has a winning record. That'd be the New York Knicks, who are 20-14 and visit ESA next Wednesday.
"We have a pretty favorable stretch of games if we take care of business," Williams said. "We just have to figure out what is going on. I don't know how, but we have to figure it out."
The Jazz already dispatched of Memphis (16-19) once in the past week, and Yao Ming-less Houston (16-19) has had more downs than ups without its 7-foot-6-tall wall from China.
Following the Knicks' visit, Utah hosts still-reeling Cleveland before embarking on a four-game East Coast trip that starts with winnable stops in Washington D.C. and New Jersey.
Considering what they've done recently — or haven't done, better yet — it's a blessing for the jazz that they don't face many top-notch teams for a while.
Utah has simply struggled against the NBA's best for some time.
While the Jazz haven't lost against a lower-tier team since Nov. 5 at Golden State, they've dropped seven in a row against squads with winning records.
That rough skid includes defeats to Atlanta, Portland (twice), New Orleans, Dallas (twice), Miami and San Antonio.
Their late-November 102-96 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers, which required a 19-point comeback, was arguably their last good win in the sense that it came against a strong team with a winning record.
"I would say that we're struggling," Williams said. "(We're) not beating the type of teams we will be playing in the playoffs, if we get into the playoffs. These are good defensive teams. It seems like we never get in sync against them, and we don't have it."
Veteran Francisco Elson, who has championship experience from playing on the 2006-07 NBA Finals-winning San Antonio Spurs club, believes the Jazz need to nip their lackadaisical ways in the bud right away.
"We don't need to address anything," he said. "We need to address everything."
Though he's just in his first season in Utah, Elson points to a lack of execution as being a major problem. He's previously talked about the team needing to increase its intensity and sense of urgency, too.
"You can tell this is not the way Utah Jazz plays, not that I've played against," Elson said. "It's kind of hard to say, specifically, what we need to do and how we need to change stuff, but there comes a time and point when basically everybody has to step up and say something, because this is getting out of hand.
"(Wednesday) was a perfect example," he added. "We got our (behinds) handed to us."
Sixth man C.J. Miles said the Jazz sometimes play "soft," which leads to playing-with-fire deficits. But he doesn't buy the theory that a starting lineup overhaul or other big changes need to be implemented.
"When we play hard and compete, we're in every game," Miles said. "We have the personnel. We have everything.
"Everybody's talking about the starters, 'Do we need to change something?' The only thing that needs to be changed is how hard we play, basically. ... I'm guilty of it. Everybody's guilty of it. We've all just got to pick our heads up and stop talking about it."21 comments on this story
Added Sloan: "If we come and play hard and do the things we're capable of doing, I think we can play with these teams. But we have to have more desire to try to get out and stop people."