Overall it was a weak effort from all of us so we’ve just got to bounce back, sleep this off and come back to work tomorrow and get better. —Jazz forward Jonas Jerebko
SALT LAKE CITY — Legendary Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was in the building.
Jazz scholarship recipient Kamaria Smith also enjoyed a courtside seat while children recited the “I Have A Dream” speech in Vivint Arena Monday as the team returned from a four-game road trip to host the Indiana Pacers.
Although the overall atmosphere was polite on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, nothing was civil once the ball was tipped off.
It was all business as the Pacers pulled away with a 109-94 victory to hand the Jazz their fifth loss in the last six games.
As the team continues to push through injuries, trade rumors and one of the league’s toughest schedules, Utah has gone 4-15 since Dec. 5.
“Overall it was a weak effort from all of us so we’ve just got to bounce back, sleep this off and come back to work tomorrow and get better,” said Jazz forward Jonas Jerebko, who ended with eight points and five rebounds. “We’ve got the tools, we’ve just got to be much better than that and put up much, much better effort.”
Even with Raul Neto returning from a 15-game absence from a concussion and left knee bone bruise, the Jazz allowed the game to slip away after halftime.
The Pacers used a 27-18 run in the third to pull ahead, 85-65, entering the fourth. The Jazz did attempt a late fourth-quarter comeback, but the Pacers answered going on another run to seal the victory.
Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 23 points, two rebounds, two steals and two assists. Rodney Hood started 1-for-7 from the field, even hearing boos from fans at one point, but found a groove late in the game to end with 15 points on 6-for-14 shooting in 21 minutes, while silencing the noise.
Utah made just 11 assists on 36 made field goals and didn’t possess a collective focus or mental toughness, trailing by as many as 23 points. The squad entered Monday’s game averaging 20.9 assists per game.
“We’re not playing with a lot of confidence on offense right now, both individually and collectively,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “If that’s the case, you can’t force that. You’ve got to just connect even more and put more pressure on your offense, but that pressure can’t be felt by any one guy, it’s got to be collective.”
Derrick Favors scored 10 of his 16 points in the first quarter. He also grabbed seven rebounds, but also felt the team lacked energy and communication.
“We’re just missing shots that we normally make,” Favors said. “It just boils down that we’ve got to come out and play better. We’ve got to play a lot tougher than how we’re playing.”
On the other hand, Indiana shot 53.2 percent from the field, nearly 54 percent from beyond the arc and 86.7 percent at the free-throw line. The Pacers are 15-0 when shooting 50 percent from the field.
Pacers star Victor Oladipo continued his All-Star campaign with a game-high 28 points, six rebound and six assists while knocking down five of his eight 3-pointers. Thaddeus Young added 17 points while Cory Joseph and Domantas Sabonis both finished with 15 apiece.
“We’re a better team when everybody is scoring and everybody is contributing, we’re hard to guard,” Oladipo said. “When we’re moving the ball like that and we’re playing together, we’re a tough team. We just have to continue to build on it.”
Utah (17-26) will look to pick up the pieces Wednesday in Sacramento.
Ball movement, eliminating careless turnovers and finding a groove offensively are among the laundry list of improvements that the Jazz have to make. Players know it, too.
“We’ve just got to get it together,” Jerebko said.