Inconsistent Jazz head into Kings game looking for answers

SALT LAKE CITY — Finding consistency remains an ongoing struggle for the Utah Jazz.

Utah hasn’t been able to put together an offense and defense at the same time early in the season. The end result is an up-and-down journey that makes its next stop in a rematch with the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.

The Jazz beat Sacramento 123-117 in the regular season opener for both teams. Not much has gone right for Utah since that first game, as illustrated by the team’s recently completed five game road trip.

Solid wins over Memphis and Boston were offset by lopsided losses to Dallas and Indiana, as well as a setback to Philadelphia. Sometimes the offense vanished. Other times, the Jazz couldn’t get defensive stops at critical junctures. It painted a complete picture of an incomplete team.

“It’s about us. I feel like there’s no game that we couldn’t have won on this trip,” Rudy Gobert told the Salt Lake Tribune after Monday’s 124-91 loss to the Pacers. “We can beat everyone, and we can also lose to anyone. We have to put it in our head that we have to come out ready every night.”

A 27-point loss to Indiana and a 50-point loss to the Mavericks bore similar characteristics. In both games, Utah (8-9) was lifeless on offense and passive on defense. Ricky Rubio tallied 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting against the Pacers, but got no help until it was too late. Rubio also led the way against Dallas – despite scoring only 11 points.

Playing with more energy is becoming critical for the Jazz with a slew of tough games still ahead.

“There shouldn’t be times when we’re up and down, but that was pretty much the theme of this whole road trip – we were up, then we were down, up and then down,” Donovan Mitchell told the Salt Lake Tribune. “We’ll get back on track.”

Sacramento (9-8) could also use some positive road momentum. The Kings come into Utah having dropped three straight away from home – including losses to Memphis and Houston on back-to-back nights.

They did erase some of the bad taste of those setbacks with a 117-113 home win over Oklahoma City on Monday. Iman Shumpert gave Sacramento an early boost. He scored all 23 of his points before halftime to propel the Kings to an early lead. Buddy Hield added a team-high 25 points.

Marvin Bagley III contributed 15 points and 13 rebounds for his first NBA career double-double. Bagley’s outing could take some heat off head coach Dave Joerger who has had reported friction with the Sacramento front office.

A Yahoo Sports report over the weekend cited unnamed sources that suggested the Kings were looking to part ways with Joerger over philosophical differences. Sacramento players defended their coach after the victory over the Thunder and said he was the right person for the job there.

“I didn’t see no reason why people should talk like that,” Hield told the Sacramento Bee after the game. “We’re doing great. … You’ve got to give respect where respect is due, and he’s been doing a great job.”

Since Joerger installed a new up-tempo offense, the Kings have become a much more competitive ball club than a year ago. Sacramento’s nine wins in 17 games represent one-third of their win total from last season.