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Kragthorpe: Jazz sleepwalk through horrible defeat

Published March 1, 2017 11:07 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In three weeks, the Jazz will stage a 20-year reunion of the franchise's first NBA Finals team. Judging by what unfolded Wednesday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena, those guys surely would have produced a better effort than the current team.

Yeah, even in their 40s and 50s.

The Jazz of this century looked lifeless and hopeless in a 107-80 loss to Minnesota, a showing that the schedule made somewhat understandable ­— but certainly not forgivable for a playoff-bound team. During a fourth-quarter timeout, the video board's Emoji Cam showed a sleeping face. Or was that a live look into the Jazz's huddle?

Numerically and subjectively, this one goes into the books as the worst home performance of Jazz coach Quin Snyder's three seasons. Never mind that Minnesota is a young, rising team that's fighting for a playoff berth. The Timberwolves resemble the Jazz of two years ago, when Snyder's influence took hold in March. No favorable description applies to the product the Jazz put on the court Wednesday, when they shot 34 percent from the field through three quarters and looked worse than that number suggests.

"We got crushed," Gordon Hayward said.

The schedule didn't do the Jazz any favors. The Timberwolves were rested, while the Jazz were coming off a draining defeat Tuesday at Oklahoma City. Snyder could absorb the loss to the Thunder, citing Russell Westbrook's epic effort. "We didn't lose the game; they won it," he said.

But there was no rationalizing the Jazz's effort against Minnesota. "We need to own the game — own what we did, and be better," Snyder said.

Hayward took that approach as a team leader, stiff-arming the scheduling excuse and blaming himself to this extent: "I didn't bring it … didn't have our guys ready."

He tersely promised a better showing Friday vs. Brooklyn, as the Jazz resume their fight for the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference standings, worth home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. That quest is starting to feel more like a media creation than a genuine competition. Regardless of whether the Jazz are No. 4, 5, 6 or 7 in the West, they'll face a top-tier opponent and have trouble winning even a game or two after April 15.

The one thing I'll keep demanding of this team is the Jazz need to re-establish some degree of home-court dominance. If they're good enough to be 17-12 on the road, they should be a lot better than 20-12 at home, in front of one of the NBA's most supportive crowds. Those fans got cheated Wednesday, when they apparently were too stunned to boo very much during a tortuous evening.

I claim to have seen this coming. Something about having Tom Thibodeau in the building for the first time as Minnesota's coach suggested trouble for the Jazz. Thibodeau was the opposing coach for Jerry Sloan's last game in February 2011, when Chicago's defense tormented Deron Williams and the Jazz so much that the frustration spilled into the locker room at halftime. After the confrontation with Williams, Sloan quit his job the next day.

Out of work himself in October 2015, Thibodeau visited the Jazz for several days during training camp. As a USA Basketball assistant coach, he's tied to Mike Krzyzewski, Snyder's college coach. In the exchange of information, "I tried to milk him for everything I could," Snyder said.

Thibodeau came away impressed, saying of the Jazz operation, "I love the way they prepare, the way they practice."

There was absolutely nothing to like about the way the Jazz played Wednesday. This kind of thing is unavoidable during an 82-game season, but anyone would like to believe the Jazz had advanced beyond the stage of letting it happen in March.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com Twitter: @tribkurt






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