SALT LAKE CITY — Jae Crowder exited the locker room before media availability opened.
Derrick Favors appeared stone-faced, while leaning back in his chair in disbelief.
Even after posting a season-high 22 points and three assists following a three-game absence with a left-hand chip fracture, Alec Burks declined to comment following Utah’s loss to the Toronto Raptors Monday night 124-111.
“I ain’t talking today,” Burks said after getting dressed, before calmly darting off.
Players were visibly frustrated and rightfully so after dropping their fourth consecutive game, falling to 4-6 on the young season. Utah trailed by as many as 26 points while connecting on just 25.8 percent of their three-point attempts to begin the season 0-4 at home.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference’s top-ranked Raptors shot 57 percent from the field while attacking the Jazz defense mercilessly in transition and in the paint.
Toronto was playing without its star player Kawhi Leonard, who rested for the second night in a row with left ankle soreness, as the Raptors were also on the second night of a back-to-back. Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell also sat out again with a left ankle sprain.
“I don’t think there’s been a lack of effort defensively, I think there’s a lack of focus, which however you want to define that our general effort needs to be better,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “In some respects, if our focus is on the offensive end, we’re not going to have the resolve and the communication that we need. We have breakdowns and part of that is effort.”
Utah appeared engaged during the first quarter, when they went up by as many as nine, and led 31-30 following the first 12 minutes while forcing seven turnovers.
But then things went downhill as the game progressed, especially during the second quarter where Utah got outscored 35-23 to trail 65-54 at halftime, went 6-for-19 in the third quarter with six turnovers and saw Joe Ingles separate his right middle finger late in the fourth in front of a sellout crowd.
“You don’t want to get to the point where we were last year where you have to be 10, 11 games under to actually kind of flip it around,” said Ingles, who ended with nine points and two assists on 3-for-13 shooting. “We want to do it now. It’s obviously frustrating because we haven’t won at home, we haven’t played well to where we think we can so it’s frustrating but I don’t think it can get the better of us because we’ve got too good a group.
“The guys in this locker room are too high character to just let it go,” he added.
In Leonard’s absence, OG Anunoby, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet all posted 17 points apiece while Pascal Siakam ended with 16 points and seven boards. Lowry also dished out 11 assists with seven rebounds and two steals.
Rudy Gobert had 14 points and 12 rebounds, Favors had 11 points and 10 boards and Royce O’Neale had 11 points on the night, but Ingles says the Jazz aren’t doing the little things that made them as successful as last year where they made a second-round playoff run and posted the league’s top defensive rating.
“The little things that made us so good last year we haven’t really done any of them until this point,” Ingles said. “We’ve played quarters, we’ve played minutes but I guess the runs that teams have against us of 20-0, 18-0 is not 8-0 and (think) we can get a stop and regroup. It just kind of falls apart and we need to fix it quickly.”
As the leader of the team, Gobert feels it’s time to look in the mirror and hold themselves accountable. For a team that entered the season with high expectations, projected to finish in the top tier of the Western Conference by some national media publications, so far guys haven’t played like it.
“That’s why the NBA is tough, you have to not enjoy your wins too much and not get down too much on a loss,” Gobert said. “I think we have a good group of guys that understand that but at the same time, you have a group of guys that get hurt when you lose and we all get hurt.11 comments on this story
“When those kind of things happen, the best thing to do is to first all look ourselves in the mirror, come back the next day with a good mentality and try to lift the group up,” he continued.
Utah will return to practice on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for Wednesday’s home game versus Dallas then a Friday night showdown against former Jazzman Gordon Hayward and the Boston Celtics.
“I think our team cares, we’re just not caring about the right things,” Snyder said. “That lack of focus on what’s important, that hasn’t been our identity.”