Jazz look to get back to winning defense vs. Hawks
A big part of the success the Utah Jazz have enjoyed this season is tied to their solid defensive performance.
That trait was missing in Utah's last contest, and the Jazz look to retrieve it when they host the Atlanta Hawks on Friday in Salt Lake City.
Utah lost for just the second time in the past 11 games on Wednesday in a showing that was poor from the start.
The Portland Trail Blazers exploded for 45 first-quarter points and rang up the most points scored against the Jazz all season with a convincing 132-105 home victory.
Portland shooting guard CJ McCollum was 9-of-9 shooting in the opening quarter while scoring 20 points.
"If you give up a 45-point quarter, it becomes a long game, and you expend a lot of energy trying to get back in the game, and we weren't able to do that," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said during his postgame press conference. "It was a tough night."
The shaky performance rose Utah's average points allowed to 105.7 per game. Both losses during the club's 9-2 stretch came against Portland.
Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell continued his recent splurge with 22 points. Mitchell has topped the 20-point mark in 13 straight games.
Mitchell couldn't ignore the beating his team took, but he didn't want outsiders to discount his team's recent strong play.
"We're playing well, we're playing better," Mitchell told reporters. "It's hard to see that right now after this loss. We've done so many good things. We've got to continue to fight and push through."
Atlanta is making the fifth stop of a seven-game road trip. The Hawks are 2-2 after committing 21 turnovers during Wednesday's 135-113 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
"We're not going to use any excuses," Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said in the postgame press conference. "The real message is this is part of the NBA. This is our longest road trip, and this is part of the NBA where we really want to get some growth."
Rookie point guard Trae Young recorded 23 points and eight assists against the Kings and has six 20-point outings over the last eight games.
Young has been especially solid over the past three games by averaging 26.3 points and making 28 of 45 field-goal attempts. The hot stretch comes after he had just five points on 1-of-12 shooting against the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 23.
Second-year power forward John Collins struggled to 5-of-15 shooting and 14 points against Sacramento after averaging 26 points on 29-of-38 shooting over the previous three games.
Shooting guard Kent Bazemore (ankle) returned from a 14-game absence and scored nine points in 19 minutes off the bench against the Kings.
"A lot goes into recovering from an injury as severe as the one I had," Bazemore told reporters.
"Felt good to be back out there. I didn't really miss a beat. It's just all about trying to get back in shape where you can play as hard as you can for as long as you can," Bazemore said.
This is the first meeting between the teams this season. The Hawks held the Jazz to an average of 92 points while winning last season's two meetings.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 31, 2019