SALT LAKE CITY — The big word for the Utah Jazz players and coaches after Friday’s practice was “aggressive” or some variation thereof. It describes what the Jazz feel they must be Saturday night in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series with Houston (8:30 p.m.) at Vivint Arena.
So far, the Jazz have felt they’ve been too passive in letting the Rockets dictate things too much, which is why Houston has come away with two lopsided victories in the first two games of the series.
No one knows better about the proper playoff mindset than Jazz veteran Kyle Korver, who is playing in the postseason for the 12th straight year, including the past two NBA Finals.
“We need to walk into the game and show them that we’re here and ready to play,” Korver said. "You can’t control whether shots go in the basket sometimes, but we can control our energy, we can control our aggressiveness, we can control our heart. We need to bring a higher level of physicality, urgency — all those things. It’s an important game obviously and we need to come out there and play like it.”
Coach Quin Snyder used a food analogy in discussing the subject.
“Aggression isn’t something that someone serves you for dinner,” Snyder said. “It’s exactly the opposite — it’s being hungry. That’s been who we are and that has to be a focal point, regardless of anything we’re doing collectively or tactically. Your competitiveness is the key element in anything you do.”
“We’ve got to come out with a more aggressive and focused mindset than we have,” said Joe Ingles, who included himself in saying he needs to be less passive on the offensive end. “It’s not on one person. Whoever gets in there, we can all be more aggressive.”
Then there was Donovan Mitchell, who said he “couldn’t get any lower than the effort and performance” he gave in Wednesday night's loss.
Mitchell talked about the opening two offensive possessions of the game when he was involved in Jazz turnovers that led to a quick 4-0 deficit that quickly ballooned.
“Those two plays were on me, putting myself in positions where I don’t come out as aggressive as I should be,” he said. “It’s a mindset. You can do X’s and O’s all you want, but it’s really just a mindset of how hard you want to play.”
So look for the Jazz to come out with more energy, regardless of whether or not they can shoot better than the 39 percent they shot in each of the first two games or the 15-of-65 shooting from 3-point range.
“That’s been the discouraging thing — it feels like we’ve just kind of backed down at times, and that’s not us,” Korver said. “We’re a team that grinds. We’re a gritty team, a team that scraps and does all the little things and we have to get back to that. We have to come here and have a game where we play like we’re capable of playing and how we’ve executed all year and then we can live with those results."
Korver has been out with a sore knee that sidelined him for the final six games of the regular season and seemed to hamper him in the first two games of the series when he scored just 2 points in 12 minutes of action.
After practice Friday he said, “I did the most in practice than I’ve done in a bunch of weeks and that’s encouragaing. So I’ll be ready when I get the opportunity.”
When asked to elaborate on how healthy he was, Korver replied, “Doesn’t matter guys. It’s all good. I’ll be ready to go tomorrow night.”
JAZZ NOTES: Game 4 is scheduled for Monday night at Vivint Arena, with Game 5 back in Houston on Wednesday night if the Jazz can win at least one of the next two games. If the series is extended, the Jazz and Rockets will play Game 6 on Friday at Vivint. … The Jazz have shot more free throws in the series than the Rockets, 45-42, but have made one fewer (35). … Rudy Gobert (11 for 16) and Derrick Favors (12 for 19) are both shooting above 50 percent in the series. … Houston's James Harden is averaging 30.5 ppg in the series after averaging 36.1 during the regular season.