It started from the beginning of the game where we just weren’t as urgent as we needed to be, whether it was closing on shooters, transition defense, helping... we must have helped from the strong side eight to ten times in the first half. —Jazz coach Quin Snyder
SALT LAKE CITY — Most coaches would’ve been happy.
The Utah Jazz certainly had a reason to celebrate after topping the Los Angeles Lakers 117-110 Tuesday night to jump to No. 4 in the Western Conference standings. Even Donovan Mitchell appeared on ESPN First Take on Wednesday morning.
But Quin Snyder isn’t like most NBA coaches.
Neither are his players, who are on a mission to secure a postseason berth with four games remaining.
So when a reporter asked “Quin, how did you like your team’s defense tonight?” during the postgame press conference, Snyder was bluntly honest.
“I didn’t like it,” Snyder said. “It started from the beginning of the game where we just weren’t as urgent as we needed to be, whether it was closing on shooters, transition defense, helping... we must have helped from the strong side eight to ten times in the first half.
“Those were threes. Our focus needs to be better,” he added. “All I have heard is the playoffs and we are in the playoffs. We aren’t in the playoffs. There is no ‘X’ next to our name in the standings, so we need to play with more urgency and more focus. We did the other night and we’ve got to find that consistency. It’s that simple.”
Urgency, consistency, and execution are keywords shared throughout the Jazz locker room during this final push.
Since Jan. 19, the Jazz are 27-7 with league’s second-best winning percentage and top defensive rating (98.1), but Snyder didn’t like falling behind 9-0 early in the game to a Lakers team playing without Lonzo Ball, Isaiah Thomas, and Brandon Ingram then allowing them to pull within six in the final 3:19 of regulation.
Kuzma would finish with 26 points and six rebounds while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 28 points and five rebounds against Utah’s usually stingy defense. The Lakers also shot 50 percent from beyond the arc. That doesn’t sit well with Snyder.
“We’ve got to find that focus. We can. We’ve had it, but it has to be important,” Snyder said. “We talked about one game. One game. If you are playing one game, the whole point of that is to be dialed in on that game.
“If you’re not dialed in on that game, whatever you are thinking about isn’t what you need to be thinking about,” he said. “That can’t happen right now this time of year if we want to make the playoffs.”
Against Los Angeles, Rudy Gobert made three swats, logged two steals with five assists, 12 points and 12 boards. Derrick Favors also grabbed eight rebounds with 15 points as the Jazz limited the Lakers to 34 points in the paint and 12 second-chance points.
At halftime is where things switched.
“We just came out with a defensive mindset and made stops,” Gobert said. “It’s a great win for us. We can’t let them get in the game and beat us.”
Favors cosigned Snyder that the defensive focus wasn’t as strong as it could’ve been, but he’s not dissatisfied with collecting another victory at this point of the year.
Utah (45-33) will just have to clean up a few things for Thursday’s home game versus the Los Angeles Clippers, especially on the perimeter. Everything else will take care of itself, according to the guys.
“It could’ve been better,” Favors said. “They came out aggressive, hit a lot of shots and got going early. I think it could’ve been a lot better. As the game got going we found a groove for us.”