SALT LAKE CITY — One consistent thing about this year’s Utah Jazz team has been its inconsistency.
The Jazz have had a problem putting together good performances from one game to the next. It happened again this week when the Jazz followed a 21-point home win over Portland with a 17-point loss to a Philadelphia team that came in with a very similar record to Portland’s.
It’s not just this week. The Jazz haven’t won more than three games in a row since Nov. 12, when they won at Memphis after home wins over Boston and Dallas. By the same token, the Jazz haven’t lost more than three straight since losing at Los Angeles (Lakers) on Nov. 23. The 17 games since have been a series of one- or two-game “streaks.”
Two blowout wins over San Antonio and Houston were followed by big losses at San Antonio and Oklahoma City. A 27-point win over Miami was followed by two losses at Orlando and Houston. A solid home win over Golden State and a 30-point demolition of Portland on the road were followed by a home loss to Oklahoma City, before the two most recent games.
Coach Quin Snyder believes his team has been more consistent lately, and for him it comes down to the usual thing — defense.
“There’s always going to be pitfalls whatever the situation is, where you’re not going to have that on the level you want all the time,” he said. “The key is to have all those inconsistent spurts be shortened, and if you don’t have any of them, great.”
Snyder said certain things like consistent shooting are hard to control, and “there’s not a whole lot you can do about that.”
“That’s why for us, defending is so important," he said. "You can impact a game on the defensive end by being consistent with everything you’re doing, every possession and having that focus on those things."
Donovan Mitchell, who has had his own ups and downs this season, agrees with Snyder that the team has been playing better recently.
“The last seven or eight games we’ve been playing the way we want to, but tonight was just a slip and we’ve got to fix it,” he said after Thursday’s loss. “It’s nothing to overreact to. Obviously this loss hurts, but we’ve got another one Saturday, and we’ve got to be ready for that.”
That game is against a New York Knicks team that comes to Vivint Arena Saturday night sporting the second worst record in the NBA at 9-27. It has lost 11 of its last 12 games, including a Christmas Day loss at home to Milwaukee and a road loss at Milwaukee Thursday night.
The Knicks have a couple of former Jazz players on their rosters, lottery picks Enes Kanter (No. 3, 2011) and Trey Burke (No. 9, 2013).
Kanter is the second-leading scorer on the team at 14.7 ppg and leading rebounder at 10.8, but he has been coming off the bench lately after starting 23 games earlier in the year. In Thursday’s game, he was ejected after getting into a skirmish with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.3 comments on this story
Burke, whose NBA career appeared over before being picked up by the Knicks last year, was a starter early in the season when he had consecutive games of 24, 31, 19 and 29 points in mid-November. However, a stretch of games later in the month when he made just 7 of 37 shots over a four-game stretch put him back to the bench. During the month of December, he has played in just four of 13 games, scoring a grand total of nine points.
New York’s top scorer is Tim Hardaway Jr. at 20.8 ppg, followed by Kanter and Denver castoff Emmanuel Mudiay at 14.3 ppg. Rookie Kevin Knox scores 12.0 ppg, followed by Allonzo Trier at 10.9. In the last game, coach David Fizdale started 7-foot-1 second-year player Luke Kornet (4.7 ppg) and Noah Vonleh (8.6 ppg) inside.
After Saturday’s game, the Jazz get ready for another weeklong trip back East as they’ll play Toronto Tuesday night, followed by games in Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee.