I think the defense in general has to be — our guys have to focus on — just the big picture of getting stops. That urgency and focus manifests itself a lot of ways. There isn’t one thing. —Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
SALT LAKE CITY — Following the Utah Jazz’s practice on Monday afternoon, a good deal of discussion centered around the difficulty of the team’s upcoming five-game road trip as a whole.
After all, the second, third, fourth and fifth contests are against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, meaning the next week will almost certainly prove to be among Utah’s most challenging stretches of the season.
The team that wasn’t mentioned a lot was the Chicago Bulls, the Jazz’s first opponent of the trip. The Bulls will enter Wednesday at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 6-20 record, and that was before they won their last three games.
But, to steal a phrase closely connected to the Jazz organization, many certainly took note of Chicago after it shellacked the Eastern Conference leading Boston Celtics by 23 on Monday night for that third straight victory.
In talking about the need to embrace the challenge of the next week, Jazz wing Joe Ingles indirectly mentioned the Bulls, saying, “We’ve kind of got to take it one game at a time. Obviously the way we came out last game (Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks) is pretty disappointing, so we want to really focus on this first game, get over there and start off the road trip the right way, and then obviously keep building and keep getting better as we go on.”
Riding a three-game losing streak in which it has given up an average of nearly 110 points per contest, Utah will be looking to contain a Chicago offense that, incidentally, has averaged just over 110 points per outing in their three-game win streak.
“I think the defense in general has to be — our guys have to focus on — just the big picture of getting stops,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “That urgency and focus manifests itself a lot of ways. There isn’t one thing.”
More specifically, Snyder said the team is still adjusting to having Rudy Gobert back in the lineup after he missed 11 contests with a knee injury, although the coach certainly wants the Frenchman on the floor.
“I think in some respects, we talk about reincorporating guys on the offensive end. I think the same is true on the defensive end,” Snyder said. “We’re a little different team with Rudy back there. We need to make that an even better defensive team.”
While the team continues to focus on reincorporating Gobert defensively, Snyder could have two of his more important offensive players back on Wednesday after extended absences because of injury. Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson both participated in (non-contact) practice on Monday and were declared available and questionable, respectively.
Johnson has been out since Nov. 1 because of a hand injury, while Hood has missed the last seven games because of foot soreness.
“Obviously, we’ve had a tough year with different guys out,” Ingles said. “It’s nice to have most of our group back for once and obviously (Hood and Johnson) are two pretty key pieces of what we do.”
The injury report isn’t all positive, however, as Raul Neto is doubtful because of a concussion he suffered against the Bucks, and Jonas Jerebko is listed as probable because of illness.