We’ve had an identity, we just have to demonstrate it. —Jazz coach Quin Snyder
SALT LAKE CITY — Having just concluded their worst home stretch since early in the 2014-15 season, the Utah Jazz will try to turn things around as they head out on the road for nearly a week beginning with tonight’s game against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden (5:30 p.m. MT).
It’s been a rough spell for the Jazz, who fell to 6-8 with their latest loss, a 109-98 home defeat Monday to Minnesota in a game they were never in after the opening minute. It marked the fourth home loss in their last five games at Vivint Arena, the worst home stretch since a six-game losing streak in late November and early December of 2014, and fifth loss in six games overall.
Coach Quin Snyder said the Jazz need to get back to their identity as a defensive team that is unselfish and shares the ball on offense.
“We’ve had an identity; we just have to demonstrate it,” he said. “Part of an identity is your habits, and we have to stay true to that and hang on as tight as we can.”
The Jazz have several areas that need improving, but five in particular to get back on the winning track.
There’s nothing more basic than putting the ball in the hoop. And the Jazz haven’t been doing that very well lately.
After a good start to the season, when they shot 46.8 percent over the first seven games and were among the top 10 in the league, the Jazz have shot just 40 percent over the last seven games. They now rank 26th in the NBA in field goal percentage at 43.2 percent and are tied for 21st in 3-point shooting at 34.7 percent.
Some of Utah’s best shooters are struggling as Joe Ingles went 6 for 23 from 3-point range in the recent four-game homestand and 14 for 41 overall, while Rodney Hood was just 11 of 30 from 3-point range and 21 of 58 overall.
Then there’s Ricky Rubio. Though not known as a shooter, he started off fairly well before the last six games when he’s made just 14 of 56 shots (25 percent) and an atrocious 1 of 23 (4.5 percent) from 3-point range.
With not as much talent as most other teams in the league, the Jazz hang their hat on playing tough defense. When that’s not happening, they have little chance of winning most nights.
Snyder called it “a messy game defensively” Monday when the Timberwolves got inside for several dunks on their way to a 52-percent shooting night and said the Jazz were more concerned with offense than defense.
“Whether we’re thinking about our offense letting that affect our defense, it has to be the other way around,” he said. “When someone gets beat really bad or has a breakdown, that compromises the whole defense. If we can’t keep people in front of us in those situations, it’s difficult to get stops.”
Rebound the basketball
This is even tougher with Rudy Gobert sidelined for the next month or so. Right now, the Jazz rank 29th in the league in rebound percentage, 26th in offensive rebounds and 27th in total rebounds.
Gobert has ranked among the NBA leaders in rebounding for the last few years. Derrick Favors is a capable rebounder and had 12 and 10 in the last two games, but other inside players such as Thabo Sefalosha, Epke Udoh, Jonas Jerebko and Joe Ingles need to step up. Those four combined for just 12 boards in Monday night’s defeat.
Get to the free throw line
When you lead the league in free throw percentage (83.3 percent), it would be nice to get to the line as often as possible. However, the Jazz only rank 21st in free throw attempts with 20.6 per game.
Against the T-Wolves Monday, the Jazz only got to the line 11 times, making 10 shots. In the win over Brooklyn Saturday, the Jazz had 39 free throws.
The Jazz are best when their attacking the basket and not settling for 3-point shots as they have more than ever this year. They tied the franchise record with 39 attempts against Philadelphia last week and broke the record for a non-overtime game with 40 3-point tries Monday night.
This is easier said than done. Teams need to be connected to play well, and that’s been a problem for the Jazz, whether is has to do with the disruption of injuries or that they’re still trying to get to know each other with half of the team being new this season.
“Where we are right now, it’s going to be difficult if we don’t compete together,” said Snyder.
Favors said going on the road, after playing 10 of the first 14 games at home, might help the team.
“We’re going to be on the road for a long time, so we need to build some chemistry,” he said. “We can go to the movies and go out to eat or something. We’ll be fine if we just stick together and the wins will come.”
JAZZ NOTES: New York is coming off a disheartening 104-101 home loss to Cleveland when they led by 23 points in the second half. After playing the Knicks Wednesday night, the Jazz will move across town to play Brooklyn on Friday night, then fly to Orlando for a Saturday night game. Then it’s back up the coast to play Philadelphia Monday night before returning home for a pair of games on each side of Thanksgiving Day next week.