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Five things to know after Utah’s loss to Chicago

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Five things to know after Utah’s loss to Chicago

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Despite their best start since the 2008 season, the Jazz suffered their first loss of the season when their frenzied fourth-quarter comeback failed in a 107-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

“There are a lot of things we can do better,” Utah head coach Quin Snyder said after the game. “Give Chicago credit. They came out and really defended.… The turnovers really hurt us.”

Here are five things you need to know after the loss:

1.) Mike Conley Jr. is very important
If casual NBA fans hadn’t realized how important Conley was to the Jazz last year in the playoffs, all you had to do was watch Saturday night’s game to fully grasp the concept.

Snyder chose to rest Conley (sustaining a right knee injury) against the Bulls, and Utah’s play showed how much he missed his star point guard.

The Jazz committed 20 turnovers, which led to Chicago 25 points, and shot 35 of 92 (38.5%) from the floor and 11 of 38 (29.7%) from three-point territory for the match.

“It’s tough.… We ask Donovan (Mitchell) to play the point for the number of minutes he’s played tonight,” Snyder said. “When you are under such pressure, we have to help each other.… We have to space better, move the ball faster because your margin for error is much smaller.”

Conley might not always have the most points or the most assists for the Jazz, but he’s doing whatever it takes to get this attack to fire. Utah may want to get used to playing without him, as Snyder said the team will be very careful with their workload throughout the regular season.

2.) Turnover remains a problem
In three of their five games this season, the Jazz have committed at least 19 turnovers.

Utah returned the ball more than 20 times on Saturday night, leading Chicago to 25 points. Likewise, the Jazz forced just nine turnovers from the Bulls and scored just eight points.

While it’s not entirely shocking that Utah is spinning the ball given their style of play and overall pace, what’s concerning is how the turnovers happen.

Due to the team’s overall talent on both ends of the pitch, the Jazz were able to get away with it – until Saturday night.

Utah needs to be very careful with turnovers against talented and physical teams, especially on the road. Of course, some can be attributed to Conley not playing, but that’s no excuse Snyder, Donovan Mitchell and the team are willing to concede.

“The most important thing is when the teams get stronger we were still able to execute. Tonight we were reckless with the ball and made some mistakes,” said Mitchell. “We did a lot of trouble in our execution. If we perform better, we don’t worry about receiving those fouls that lead to turnovers.”

3.) Donovan Mitchell becomes more aggressive
Having arrived at the free throw line just 11 times in the last four games, Mitchell made it his mission to be aggressive and attack the rim on Saturday night.

That’s exactly what he did, finishing the game 10 of 10 from the free throw line en route to a peak of 30 points.

Although he shot 9 of 27 from the ground and 2 of 11 from beyond the arc, he remained aggressive when attacking the paint and receiving a foul or finding the man open (higher in the season equaling six assists).

With his shot not falling as usual, establishing a rhythm on the free throw line was the best thing to do, as Utah’s offense tends to thrive when aggressive.

Mitchell is too good a shooter for his shot not to fall. But his ability to relentlessly attack the rim and hit the free throw line is just as good for two easy runs – he’s peaked at 92.9% of the charity strip in his career.

4.) Rudy Gobert is a monster
With Mitchell struggling to score – and Utah’s offense as a whole not matching last season’s numbers, Gobert has been a revelation.

In five games, he is averaging 17.8 points and 18 rebounds per game, numbers that would demolish his career highs.

While his rebound numbers are impressive, it’s not a total shock to see this part of his game show such high numbers. At 7 feet tall, Gobert has more than enough strength, length and size to dominate glass – something he has been doing for most of his career.

But it’s his offensive evolution that sparks some MVP discussions.

Gobert plays much better on contact and finishes more firmly at the rim. It also does a much better job of sealing small defenders in the paint and forcing them to mess it up to prevent easy dunking.

That’s where the most improvements come from, his free throw numbers. A career at 63.1% of the charity strip, Gobert is shooting 70.5% (31-for-44) this season. He has already attempted more than 10 free throws twice.

If teams want to force him to score points on the charity strip, Gobert is proving that won’t be a problem this year.

5.) How will Snyder rest the players
Entering this season, Snyder and the Jazz were keen to say that overall health was going to be a top priority this year.

Having dealt with health concerns towards the end of the last two seasons – and the playoffs following – Utah plans to be more proactive in allowing its players to rest throughout the regular season.

We saw the first of those dominoes fall on Saturday night when Snyder chose to put Conley down. Although he does not suffer from any illness that has occurred this season, it was a preventative measure before tomorrow’s game in Milwaukee.

It’ll be interesting to see if anyone rests against the Bucks, given that all five starters and reigning sixth man of the year Jordan Clarkson have all played at least 29 minutes against the Bulls.

No one on Jazz likes to sit down, even going so far as to joke about missing preseason games. But the team has much broader goals and understands what’s really at stake in April, May and June – and that health-conscious approach started on Saturday night.

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