SALT LAKE CITY — On separate occasions Saturday night, Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder and sharpshooter Kyle Korver literally laughed in the face of adversity.
Asked before the Jazz took on the Chicago Bulls why his team is so good at responding to it, Snyder quipped, “Well, I’d like for us to avoid more adversity.”
Then after Utah had beaten Chicago 110-102 in somewhat ugly fashion for its third straight win despite the fact that a third of the team has been sidelined because of injury during the stretch (including all three point guards for the last two games), Korver chuckled when he said, “Point guard’s an important position. It matters, so to come in on a back-to-back and kind of grind out a win I think is really good for our team.”
To be sure, every team goes through challenges, but the Jazz have been hit particularly hard with injuries each year since Snyder became head coach before the 2014-15 season, as long absences from key rotation players (often multiple players at the same time) have marked every campaign.
In a sense, then, this latest bite from the injury bug is just business as usual. As Joe Ingles pointed out postgame on Saturday, “I guess we’re just kind of used to it, which is not good, but it’s good.”
While Ingles surely meant it’s good the team has had experience dealing with injuries before so players know better how to deal with it, the group has also often thrived when adversity has hit.
Snyder noted that on Friday, the injuries amped the healthy group up to play, and the Jazz won by 18. Then on Saturday, in addition to being without a bunch of players again, Utah had to fight tiredness and a Bulls team that played well to get the Jazz's eight-point victory.
“Mentally and physically I think we’re really tough,” Donovan Mitchell said. “I think it just shows our character. We’re willing to compete. We’re willing to fight. Even with the odds kind of stacked against us, with our backs against the wall, I think that’s when we play our best.”
Added Snyder: “It was a tough game. We were fatigued. We really hung together and defended when it counted and made some opportunistic buckets.”
Like Ingles, Snyder feels as though overcoming injury problems in the past has put the group in position to stay steady when adversity hits now.
“Part of that’s definitely learned,” he said after making the joke on Saturday. “I think like any experience in life, when you’ve been faced with challenges and you’re able to kind of persevere, when you’re in that situation again, even if it’s something very different, it’s the response that matters. … The more that happens to you, I think the more you realize that’s actually normal. If a team or someone isn’t going through or hasn’t been through adversity, it’s probably right around the corner.”
Still, the coach feels this year’s team has a particularly strong mental fortitude that is allowing it to succeed through adversity.
“It’s a resilient group,” he said. “I think it gets back to individual character, and those guys have a belief in one another and I feel like they’re connected in that sense, so that if one guy or two guys are going through something, I think they come together as a group. It’s natural for them, and I think they have enough pride in the team that when the team is faced with any challenge, that they’ll respond.”
The Jazz’s next task will come Monday night as they close out a four-game homestand against the Detroit Pistons. Incidentally, the two teams’ last meeting just nine days ago was the night when the injuries began, as Dante Exum and Thabo Sefolosha were both hurt that night.
Utah fell behind by 18 points in the first quarter before rallying in the second and ultimately making plays down the stretch to secure a 110-105 win despite being shorthanded.
The Pistons are just 3-9 in their last 12 games but beat the L.A. Clippers 109-104 on the road Saturday as Blake Griffin dropped 44 points in his first game back at Staples Center since the Clippers traded him to Detroit last year.