These first five games we’re still trying to get a chance to get familiar with each other. Once we do that, we’ll be fine.
SALT LAKE CITY — Just when it seemed like the Utah Jazz were cruising along to begin the 2017-18 season — BAM! — they rattled the teeth of passengers in their small bandwagon by smacking into a significant road bump.
And that was just their ugly 102-84 loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles.
What happened the next night in Phoenix — an embarrassing 97-88 loss and woeful offensive performance against the Suns — was even worse.
After a day of rest and a day of practice, the Jazz get a chance to get off of the wrong-way street they wandered onto as they host the Lakers on Saturday at Vivint Arena.
That’s good news for Utah. This Jazz squad has looked great in two home appearances — wins over the Thunder and Nuggets — but has yet to win away from the Beehive State.
The Jazz get the added advantage of facing the Lakers and their rising star rookie, former Ute Kyle Kuzma, on the second night of a back-to-back. Los Angeles — no, it hasn’t been renamed Lonzangeles yet (but give Lonzo Ball’s dad some time) — played Toronto at Staples Center late Friday night.
It’s far too early in the season to call this a must-win for Utah, so let’s settle for calling it a must-play-better game.
Rodney Hood said there are some connectivity issues that have resulted in some subpar offensive results.
Utah hasn’t surpassed the century mark in scoring since its 106-96 season-opening win over Denver. The Jazz are also scoring fewer points (94.2 per game) than all but one team.
“Just get more connected,” Hood said when asked to pinpoint the Jazz’s biggest issue right now. “These first five games we’re still trying to get a chance to get familiar with each other. Once we do that, we’ll be fine. We’ve showed flashes that we can be really good on the offensive end. We’ve just got to make it consistent.”
Turnovers has been a major downfall for the Jazz. They’re averaging 18.8 turnovers a game, which is second-worst in the NBA behind only the Lakers (19.0 tpg before Friday’s outing).
It doesn’t help that their new point guard, Ricky Rubio, is coughing up the ball an average of 4.6 times per game. His eight-year NBA turnover average, by the way, is just 2.8 per outing.
“We had costly turnovers,” Jazz power forward Derrick Favors said. “We’ve just got to take care of the ball, be in better position to make plays.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder believes it’s too early to freak out. Five games is too small of a sample size for him to get too worked up.
“It’s our job as coaches to continue to point them (mistakes) out and try to discern what happened in that situation,” Snyder said. “Was it bad spacing? The guy who threw the ball away, did he see the play and threw it too early?”
Snyder is optimistic that the turnovers will return to the mean as Rubio becomes more familiar with pick-and-roll partner Rudy Gobert & Co. and with the pace the Jazz want him to play (pushing the ball up the court but also being able to slow it down to get into their methodical offense when needed).
“There’s a difference between playing with Marc and Pau Gasol (with the Spanish national team) and Karl Towns (Minnesota) and Rudy,” Snyder said. “They’re all very different players.”
The Jazz defense continues to be solid — they’ve allowed the fifth-fewest points per game (96.4) — but rebounding is an issue. Utah is averaging just 40 boards a night. That’s third-worst in the NBA.
Favors said rebounding needs to be a bigger priority on both ends, especially for him. He’s only averaging 4.2 rebounds, which is a career-low pace for a guy who’s grabbed an average of 7.1 boards throughout his previous seven seasons.
“I’m not worried about my offense right now,” Favors said. “I’m just worried about cleaning up the offensive boards, cleaning up the defensive boards and just fixing that area.”
Favors used the word “fixable” when talking about his team’s offensive spacing and his rebounding.
Hood feels the same about the offense in general.
“It’s just going to take repetition in practice, in games. We’ll find something that works,” Hood said. “Get a chance to getting used to playing with Ricky and Rudy rolling to the rim and Joe (Ingles) having the ball in his hands a lot and myself. Just get used to each other, different lineups. We’ll be fine, just keep working at it and let it be a focus for us.”