SALT LAKE CITY — If you look at the numbers for the Utah Jazz in Friday’s 109-100 defeat to Toronto, the team’s first home loss of the season, they don’t seem that bad.
The Jazz shot a decent 44 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range. They shot 92 percent from the free-throw line, missing just two of 24 attempts. They only had 13 turnovers, three less than the Raptors and well below their season average of 17.9, which is most in the league.
So what happened Friday night?
It was defense, or a lack thereof.
The Jazz allowed a Raptors’ team that was playing its sixth game of a 12-day road trip, to shoot a season-best 53.5 percent from the field. They also had no answer for All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, who scored a season-high 37 points and beat the Jazz with 3-pointers, drives to the basket and free throws (14 of 14).
“It wasn’t the best defensive effort,” said Utah coach Quin Snyder. “That’s got to be there for us. Toronto did a good job attacking us. We weren’t solid enough. A lot of individual breakdowns where guys were getting beat and put us in some compromising positions and they were able to score.
“We’re not going to win if we don’t play defense better than that,” he added.
Rudy Gobert blocked a couple of shots to improve on his league-leading status, but he wasn’t happy with his team’s overall defensive performance.
“We should have done a way better job defensively,” he said. “We didn’t help on defense. I think we just need to be more disciplined.”
Rodney Hood acknowledged the poor defensive performance and vowed to improve.
“We just have to understand that one end affects the other and vice versa,” he said. “We’ll be better. We’ve been playing well and we can’t just hang our head on this one. We have to guard better, especially going against Houston.”
That’s what is next up for Utah, a road game in Houston against the Rockets Sunday (5 p.m. MST) at the Toyota Center. It will be the only road game in a 17-day period after four straight home games, followed by four more, starting Tuesday against Philadelphia.
At 7-3, the Rockets have the best record in the Western Conference and are coming off a 119-104 road win over Atlanta Friday night.
The Rockets added All-Star guard Chris Paul to their lineup this year after an offseason trade with the L.A. Clippers. However, Paul was sidelined just one game into the season with a knee injury and is expected to be out for two more weeks.
In the meantime, the Rockets have done just fine with James Harden leading the way, averaging 26.8 points per game, and Eric Gordon filling in for Paul with a 23.4 ppg average. Other starters have been Ryan Anderson (13.1 ppg) and Trevor Ariza (8.1 ppg) at forwards and Clint Capela (13.2 ppg, 10.9 rpg) at center. Luc Mbah a Moute, who came over in the trade for Paul, has averaged 9.3 as the team’s sixth man.
After playing Philadelphia at home Tuesday, the Jazz will have a rare home back-to-back on the weekend against Miami and Brooklyn, respectively, Friday and Saturday before playing Minnesota Monday night. Then they’ll head back on the road for a four-game Eastern road trip.