SALT LAKE CITY — Unfortunately for the Utah Jazz, having consecutive games against the Warriors and Clippers isn't the cakewalk it used to be.
Even worse for Utah, the Jazz are the worst of those three teams.
My, how times change.
That's become quite evident when you factor in the Jazz's ongoing struggles, the Warriors' dominating win at EnergySolutions Arena on Wednesday and the Clippers' incredible surge this month.
"This is the West, man. Teams have gotten better," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "They're playing extremely hard."
That's something nobody accused the Jazz (15-15) of doing in Wednesday's 94-83 demoralizing debacle against the Warriors (19-10).
"Last night was just a bad night," Jazz center Al Jefferson said at Thursday's practice. "Especially on our home floor, that's what was more embarrassing about it."
It'd be less of a concern for the Jazz if their problems merely revolved around starting point guard Mo Williams missing his second consecutive game with a severely sprained right thumb.
But the Warriors' walloping marked the fifth setback in seven games in which Utah has only scored in the 80s. The Jazz haven't reached the century mark in scoring since a 117-110 win over the Lakers in Los Angeles on Dec. 9.
"You're all asking a question that I'm trying to think of the answer to every night when I go to bed, man. I don't know why things are going the way they're going right now," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "But it's a long season and it's going to get better. I'd rather have these problems now (and) then when it gets around to March and April hope we'll be clicking and playing well."
The problem is simple, according to Corbin.
"We're missing shots," the Jazz coach said. "We're not getting the easy baskets as frequently as we were earlier."
That's resulted in the Jazz's shooting percentage slipping to 44.3 percent and in the team allowing more points (98.8) than it scores (98.1).
The Jazz's slide has also resulted in them falling out of the top eight teams in the Western Conference, having been passed up by Portland, with Minnesota and the Lakers on the bubble looking in with them for now.
"We find ourselves in a little lull more than getting it going. It's a concern," Corbin said. "It's not a panic time, but we need to figure out what we're doing because we're in such a tight race for a playoff spot and you can't afford to fall back too far here."
For now, Corbin points out that the Jazz's woes are fixable, meaning an offensive overhaul isn't necessary. All it will take, he believes, is hitting some shots and staying true to their inside-out philosophy. If they do that, he thinks they'll be back up to speed.
"I think we're getting good looks. We're just not making them," he said. "And it's not just one or two guys, it's as a group. We'll work on it, continue to take the right shots and they'll fall."
Corbin did offer up a non-shooting checklist of the things the Jazz need to improve on: quicker pace, attacking early before defenses (especially zones) can set up, better ball movement, stronger side-to-side motion, hitting gaps when they open up and trying to not press shots.
"If they're good shots, we've got to take them," Corbin said. "We've got to attack the rim. We've got to put some pressure on the guys, not settling for jump shots. We've got to get a better mix."
That's the case whether Williams is running the offensive show or guys like Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson, both of whom are expected to carry the bulk of the playmaker load during the starter's indefinite absence.
"Things just aren't going our way and every team goes through things like this," Jefferson said. "We're sill at .500 and we're still in a good position, so I'm not panicking."
It's clear, though, that the Jazz need more production from the point than they got Wednesday. Tinsley and Watson combined to score zero points and had as many turnovers as assists (a total of seven of both). Things won't get any easier with Chris Paul handling the ball for Utah's opponent the next two games — Friday vs. the Clippers at home and Sunday night in L.A. The Clippers stretched their win streak to 15 after Thursday's 106-77 win against Boston.
Corbin pointed out that Williams does a good job of getting the Jazz into the secondary part of their offense when the first option doesn't pan out. He's better at aggressively driving when needed, too.
Corbin seemed committed to keeping the rotation as it's been, with Tinsley starting and Watson backing him up until Williams returns. The coach likes Alec Burks' quickness, but the second-year guard isn't a point guard, so Corbin isn't certain whether he can make the quick basketball decisions while running the offense. Randy Foye is another option, but he's better suited as a shooting guard as well.
Watson concurred that the aggressiveness just wasn't there against the Warriors, although to the veteran point guard this particular loss wasn't any more alarming than others.
"To me, every loss is the worst. It doesn't matter for me. I think we have to play with an edge," he said. "January's coming around the corner. We have to play more physical, more decisive and we have to play with more passion. Just lose yourself to the game. Whatever happens, happens."
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