SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz have been stung by three losses in their last four games. What hurts worse is how these setbacks are unfolding.
The Jazz feel like they took a step backward with defensive communication in their latest loss — a 102-95 setback to Memphis on Saturday. It turned out to be an incredible game for the Grizzlies’ top three players on offense. Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley combined to score 69 points on 61 percent shooting.
Every time Utah appeared poised to rally and overtake Memphis in the second half, one of those three players sunk the Jazz with a barrage of baskets across multiple possessions.
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“Anytime we have breakdowns, it’s because we’re not talking to each other,” said guard Rodney Hood, who finished with a team-high 20 points against the Grizzlies. “We’re not helping each other out. I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s tough to lose when you know you can do better on that end.”
Utah (30-19) normally makes life difficult for opponents at home. The Jazz have allowed just 93.5 points per game in 26 home games this season. Opponents in those games shoot 42.7 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from the perimeter.
The absence of Derrick Favors made a huge impact on Utah’s ability to get stops in its most recent game. Without Favors in the post, Randolph and Gasol were able to muscle their way down low to get multiple easy baskets and get into an early rhythm.
“We missed his physicality as much as anything.” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Boris (Diaw) fought like crazy. Trey Lyles fought. We went small because we thought we could try and stretch them and play a little differently.”
Milwaukee heads to Salt Lake City on Wednesday with a slightly different goal in mind. The Bucks (21026) are looking for ways to get out to a stronger start and reverse a slump that has seen the team lose eight times in nine games.
Against Boston, Milwaukee had to rally from an 11-point deficit to force overtime. The Bucks expended too much energy in the rally and came up short down the stretch, falling 112-108 in overtime.
It has become a trend lately. Milwaukee has trailed by double digits at halftime in each of its last three games. The Bucks are just 4-17 when trailing at halftime this season.
“Teams get a lead on us,” Bucks center Greg Monroe said. “We do a great job of continuing to fight and get back into the game, but those lapses early in the game cost us. Sometimes that one run early in the game hurts you.”
This is the first meeting between the two teams this season. Utah has won four straight over Milwaukee after sweeping the Bucks each of the last two seasons.
The Jazz have also won 14 consecutive home games over Milwaukee since falling to the Bucks 119-112 on Oct. 30, 2001.