We haven’t started games well, that’s no secret. That hasn’t been one guy’s fault. If it’s anybody’s fault, it’s mine. —Jazz coach Quin Snyder
SALT LAKE CITY — After too many sluggish starts to games this season, Jazz coach Quin Snyder decided to make a change in his starting lineup Friday night against the New York Knicks in an effort to get out of the gates more quickly.
With Rudy Gobert joining the lineup after a 15-game absence, the Jazz coach opted to start Donovan Mitchell and Rodney Hood together for just the second time this season and send Joe Ingles to the bench for the first time all season.
Turns out, the new lineup did little good as the Jazz fell to the Knicks 117-115 at Vivint Arena.
Once again, the Jazz got off to another slow start, falling behind by seven midway through the first quarter. Then after coming back to take a six-point halftime lead, the starting group allowed the Knicks to start the second half with runs of 7-0 and 15-8 as the Jazz fell behind again.
But you can’t blame the loss entirely on the new lineup as the Jazz defense just couldn’t stop Tim Hardaway Jr., and Courtney Lee, who combined for 32 second-half points on their way to 31 and 18 points, respectively.
When asked specifically after the game about the effectiveness of the new starting lineup, Snyder said it had little to do with the outcome.
"I’ll have to go back and look at it," he said. "I don’t attribute (the loss) to any one thing. As I’ve said before, starting lineups we put a ton of emphasis on it. It can’t be who’s in at the beginning of the game. It’s collective and collectively at the beginning of that third quarter, we weren’t good."
It’s not that Snyder hasn’t used a lot of starting lineups this year, with nine different lineups before Friday. But most were out of necessity because of injury issues.
However, with Gobert coming back to the lineup after being out for 15 games since mid-December, Snyder chose to put Mitchell and Hood together in an effort to get more scoring punch from the start.
“We haven’t started games well, that’s no secret,” said Snyder before the game. “That hasn’t been one guy’s fault. If it’s anybody’s fault, it’s mine.”
While Hood made a couple of early baskets on his way to 18 points, Mitchell struggled for the first time in a while and went scoreless in the first quarter and only had two points by halftime. He got heated up in the fourth quarter and finished with 17 points, but only made 7 of 21 shots on the night.
Snyder didn't belive Mitchell's off-night had anything to do with the change in rotations.
"There wasn’t anything you could attribute in Donovan’s play to rotations," Snyder said. "Donovan’s a young player and he’s going to have ups and downs, and he had some ups tonight and he had some downs."
Before Friday, the Jazz had been outscored by 124 points total in the first quarter, by far their worst quarter this year. Against Sacramento Wednesday, the Jazz had fallen behind by 10 points midway through the first quarter before fighting back and eventually taking a 15-point victory.
With the lineup change, the odd man out was Ingles, who was the only Jazz player to start all 44 games this season (Ricky Rubio started 43, but missed one game with an injury).
Snyder emphasized that Ingles was fine with the change, saying that Ingles had actually volunteered to come off the bench back in November.
“I wasn’t coming to Joe with a huge sacrifice,” Snyder said. “The way he’s wired, he just wants to win and wants to play. It felt like this is the right thing for the team at this point.”
Coming off the bench, Ingles scored just one point in the first half before finishing with nine points and seven rebounds. He ended up playing 29 minutes, just one fewer than his season average.
“’I’m giving it more attention than it deserves,” Snyder said of the lineup change. We’ll see if he goes with the same lineup Saturday night when the L.A. Clippers visit Vivint Arena.