All the confidence and goodwill generated from an impressive road trip is gone, replaced by a four-game losing streak.
In a sense, 15 games into the season, the Jazz are back to square one. And even that might be stretching it, considering the recent swoon has dropped the Jazz below .500 at 7-8.
Two weeks ago, coming home after a 4-1 road trip, seems like a long time ago. Since then the Jazz followed a two-game home stand with a two-game trip, getting the same result in all four.
The final game, a 14-point defeat in Denver, was particularly disturbing. The Jazz never really made it a competitive game, falling behind early to the Nuggets, who coming into the game were 4-8 and had lost five of their last six games.
The loss capped a stretch in which the Jazz played nine games in eight cities spread over fourteen days. Along the way, they lost starters George Hill and Derrick Favors to injuries, joining the already sidelined Alec Burks.
Off to a sensational start after seven games, Hill suffered a sprained thumb in the win over the Knicks in New York and hasn’t played since. Favors has chronic knee pain and is out for an unspecified amount of time.
After the latest loss, coach Quin Snyder acknowledged his team was fatigued and beat up. The Jazz also encountered travel delays on the back-to-back trip to Houston and Denver.
But the third-year coach wasn’t interested in excuses.
“No one cares about that stuff,” he said. “No one cares. We shouldn’t care either. We should just buckle down and be more disciplined and be more focused on the defensive end.”
Good for him.
Losing becomes easier to accept when there is rationale behind it. It doesn’t matter if there are good points to the rationale.
Even with the injuries, the Jazz have got to find a way to win games. The team still has enough talent to avoid prolonged losing streaks.
“We just need to focus on the group,” Snyder said, “and the group needs to defend.”
Staying true to form, Snyder is demanding a better effort on the defensive end. In the losses to Houston and Denver, the Jazz gave up an average of 108 points. They allow an average of 95.1 points per game.
Snyder’s philosophy is, even with the injuries and fluctuating shooting, the defense can always be there.
“Foundationally, we’ve always been about playing defense,” he said. “When all those other things aren’t going, that’s what you fall back on.”
No doubt the Jazz have had a difficult schedule, tying with the Phoenix Suns for a league-high 10 road games. Phoenix and the Jazz also have played just five home games, one more than league-lowest Dallas.
Help is on the way in the form of improved health and a more favorable schedule.
Hill is close to coming back, giving the Jazz much-needed consistency at point guard. His return will give the Jazz bench a boost, moving Dante Exum out of the starting lineup, and take the pressure off Gordon Hayward as the primary scorer.
After having two days off, the Jazz return home in a rematch with the Nuggets on Wednesday. It starts a stretch of playing 10 of 12 games at home.
Obviously, the time is beginning for the Jazz to start moving up the Western Conference standings.