Perhaps 62 games is enough to say "you can't teach an old dog new tricks."
With another close loss Friday night (they have now lost six of seven overall), it appears doubtful that the Jazz will emerge as a clutch team this season. Holding Chicago to 37 percent shooting, while hitting a 46 percent mark of their own, wasn't enough Friday night.
Guards: Though he's healthy, perhaps Mo Williams should go back to the bench, because he hasn't been positive for the Jazz in two games after returning back to the floor for the first time since Dec. 22. After a four-turnover outing (against just three assists) in which he shot just 1-of-7, Williams is now 4-of-19 with eight turnovers and nine assists over Wednesday and Friday.
Randy Foye was also miserable, and it wasn't only because he shot 0-of-4 from the field. Chicago shooting guard Marco Belinelli scored 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting, with four rebounds and three assists. The Italian is on a tear, averaging 20-plus points in the past three games after averaging just 7.5 per game in the previous four. Gordon Hayward (five points on 2-of-6 shooting) was a non-factor in 29 minutes, the most time for any Utah guard Friday night. GRADE: D+
Forwards: Paul Millsap (10 points on 4-of-9 shooting, six rebounds) actually edged former Jazzman Carlos Boozer (22 points on 10-of-22 shooting, nine rebounds) if you consider that Millsap played half the amount of Boozer's minutes (Millsap had 21 compared to Boozer's 43). With three fouls in 10 minutes, DeMarre Carroll wasn't much of a factor.
With 11 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks in just more than half the game (27-plus minutes), it's disappointing that Derrick Favors wasn't given more time (that story has been told before). Given his play, his four fouls shouldn't have kept him from playing at least five more minutes. At least Chicago powerhouse Luol Deng (4-of-12 shooting) struggled offensively. GRADE: C+
Centers: Al Jefferson (23 points on 10-of-16 shooting) played one of his most effective offensive games of the season — an accomplishment even more notable given that the Bulls' Joakim Noah scored 14 fewer points on 3-of-8 shooting. He did out-rebound Big Al, 13-6, in less than two more minutes of playing time.
Enes Kanter turned in an effective 17-plus minutes with 10 points and three rebounds, though the Turk usually averages nearly five boards in 15 minutes per game. GRADE: C
Bench: The Jazz certainly won this category, with their reserves outscoring the Chicago bench by a whopping 49-10 count. Marvin Williams (14 points, 10 rebounds) was an absolute star in 27 minutes in his new sixth man role, competing with Favors as the sub of the game. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau used just three players outside of his starters. Given that they shot 2-of-12, perhaps Thibodeau made a wise choice. The bench loses a half-grade only because Utah didn't win. GRADE: A-
Overall: Entering the final weeks of the season, the Jazz can afford only so many more close losses in order to make the postseason. The fact that it's become routine not just in the recent seven-game stretch in which Utah has lost six, but during the course of a season is a testament to the team's mediocrity. One distinguishing factor to the recent slump specifically, however, is that a deal should have been made to move a veteran off the books. GRADE: C
Rhett Wilkinson studies at Utah State University and is the co-founder of Aggie BluePrint, USU's first student magazine. A two-time Deseret News intern, he now works as an intern for Deseret Book's LDS Living. firstname.lastname@example.org or @wilklogan
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