Analysis: Jazz are struggling to close games and miss Mike Conley as losses mount

The Utah Jazz’s are on a five-game losing streak. Thats not cool. But the Jazz didn’t get blown up, they didn’t play absolutely terrible basketball. They were in pretty much every single one of those five games and had a chance to win.

You have lost at most 11 points in this losing streak. They lost away to the Phoenix Suns by just one point on Saturday and to the Chicago Bulls on Monday night at the Vivint Arena by just seven points, 114-107.

There are two big things that I think are the problem with these losses.

  • First and foremost, jazz misses Mike Conley. There is simply no way around it. He’s the only natural and pure point guard on this team, he’s the most experienced in the role, and there’s a reason his teammates and coaches all point out the “reassuring presence” Conley provides when he’s on the place is .

Conley really sets the pace of the game when he plays and he never speeds up, and he reads everything the way you would expect an all-star point guard to read things.

“I think sometimes when the game gets difficult, things don’t go your way, you can go into your standard mode and sometimes we play a little bit too isolated,” head coach Will Hardy said after Jazz Monday’s loss. “The ball doesn’t move that much and you know that’s natural. So we just have to keep emphasizing how we play as a team.”

It’s almost impossible to hear the head coach say something like that and not believe that Conley would actually help out in those exact situations.

  • The second thing is that this losing streak caused this Jazz team to not do well in difficult late-game situations.

This of course ties directly to the part where Conley is missing and how much he would really help control the game in those sticky moments. But it’s also really important for jazz players other than Conley to figure out how to master some of it without him.

That’s kind of the point of this season. They need to find out who will be a part of the future of jazz and which players are able to evolve and work together.

Take what happened at the end of Monday’s game, for example. The Jazz were just four points behind the Bulls and had the ball with 3:46 to go. This is not a bad place.

But then Kelly Olynyk turns the ball around and Collin Sexton commits a clear path foul, giving the Bulls two free throws and possession. So the Bulls score four more points, extend their lead to eight points, and the next time the Jazz has possession, Sexton flips the ball and the Bulls score again.

“That was a bad sale from me,” said Olynyk. “Then the way is clear. Obviously that’s two and the ball. And now it goes from four to eight and then we flip it back over and now it’s ten. Things are really looking up now.”

Yes, and when there’s less than three minutes to play it’s really draining and hard to pull yourself out of those holes when it feels like the bugs just keep on multiplying and snowing.

Of course, those moments where the Jazz ends up losing control aren’t great when you’re trying to win a game. But these are really important moments for rating players or even getting a baseline of a player to then rate them later.

How will Olynyk and Sexton operate in a clutch situation on the ground in March? When they are more composed and focused and don’t let these mistakes bring out the best in them, we can see clear progress.

I guess what I’m saying is that we didn’t know what this team would be like and we still don’t know. But those are the things we can look back on towards the end of the season and at least see what the team has learned and what it’s become because of the early struggles.