SAN ANTONIO — What do the Jazz need to do in order to win, then? Keep Al Jefferson out of the game?
Following a three-point win over Philadelphia Friday night, Utah reverted back to the same poor play it had in its first two games of the year with the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver, and shot below 40 percent for the second time in four contests (including 2-of-16 from the 3-point line) in getting hammered, 104-89, by the San Antonio Spurs Saturday night in Texas.
Jefferson returned to the lineup after sitting out against the Sixers at EnergySolutions Arena.
GUARDS: Devin Harris continues to turn in sub-par performances. He scored eight points on just 2-of-8 shooting, while dishing out just three assists. Curiously, he shared time with Earl Watson, who was equally bad in going just 2-of-9 from the floor with no assists.
Raja Bell has yet to play great in any game, going scoreless in three attempts in 17 minutes Saturday, while C.J. Miles returned to inconsistency by scoring seven points on just 2-of-7 shooting. Meanwhile, San Antonio shooting guard Manu Ginobili was nearly flawless in scoring nearly as many points (23) as he logged minutes (24), while going 9-of-10 from the field. He simply ran around, shot over and backcut the listless Jazz guards whenever he actually was in the game. Really, no Jazz guard hardly played well at all. GRADE: D-
FORWARDS: Paul Millsap scored eight points on 4-of-7 shooting with seven rebounds, but he really needs more shot attempts. Derrick Favors gave a mediocre performance in 23 minutes in his first effort off the bench this season, while Gordon Hayward probably gave his worst performance of the young season, going just 1-of-9 for four points. He tallied four assists and three rebounds. Former all-star Josh Howard scored 18 points, but it came on 6-of-16 shooting. Future Spurs hall-of-famer Tim Duncan was limited to a 4-of-13 effort. GRADE: C-
CENTERS: Jefferson did return with a decent offensive game in scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He and rookie Enes Kanter allowed DeJuan Blair to score 17 points on just eight field goal attempts. Kanter's two rebounds mark the lowest rebounding game of his four-game NBA career. It remains to be seen if the Jazz will miss Mehmet Okur. GRADE: B-
BENCH: You know when you're in trouble when Howard's 6-of-16 effort leads the bench attack. Overall, the reserves shot just 16-of-43 from the field in going just 1-of-8 from the 3-point line. The saving grace? The Jazz bench outscored the San Antonio reserves 48-30. GRADE: C
COACHING: It's hard to argue Tyrone Corbin's decision to move Millsap to the starting lineup, considering he has the second-most tenure on the team had been the most consistent player through three games. However, hopefully that move does not backfire on him if Favors doesn't play like he did in his first preseason game against Portland or Friday against Philadelphia, when he scored 20 points and ripped down 11 rebounds.
It's difficult to know what Corbin should do with his point guards since neither Harris nor Watson has been spectacular. It was probably a smart move to split their time. Perhaps he's wishing he had Ronnie Price back? It is becoming difficult not to criticize Corbin for giving Bell more than 10 minutes a game. It may not be a bad idea to give a few more of his minutes to a guy like Jeremy Evans and then shift Miles to the shooting guard slot, since he doesn't have many other options at the two-spot. Grade: C
OVERALL: Against the Lakers, the Jazz showed that they were dysfunctional on the floor and lacked outside accuracy. Against Denver, it was a lack of interest on defense. Against the Spurs, it was a little bit of both. The Jazz need a definite floor leader louder than Millsap and more consistent then their point guards, and perhaps Corbin doesn't inspire his guys the way Jerry Sloan could do. It's too early to tell. It's important to remember that it is the fourth game in a 66-contest season, but all of the red flags in the first two games certainly returned. The fact that the team was playing the second half of a back-to-back set shouldn't be an excuse for the majority of the guys, five of whom have played less than four years in the NBA. Grade: C-
Rhett Wilkinson is a journalism and speech communications major at Utah State University. He has previously been an intern for the Deseret News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Twitter: wilklogan