Jazz hope to find focus against Thunder

National Sports

There was plenty of frustration in the Utah Jazz locker room following Monday’s home loss to Memphis.

Frustration with the way the Jazz reacted to a late call that went against them. Frustration that some of the same problems that have bothered them through the early part of the season continued.

“We’re giving up too many possessions (via) transition defense and defensive rebounding,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said after the 119-118 loss, which snapped a three-game winning streak.

Those areas figure to be big factors Wednesday when the Jazz take on the Thunder in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder are the top rebounding team in the NBA (48.5 per game) and in the top 10 in offensive rebounds at 11 per game.

In the first meeting between the teams, a 107-86 Utah win Oct. 20 in Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City had 15 offensive rebounds and outscored the Jazz on the fast break 10-0.

It didn’t hurt them with the result, but it has been a major factor during their current 4-5 stretch.

“Our focus and our effort have got to be way better, especially on transition defense and defensive rebounds,” Utah’s Bojan Bogdanovic said. “(I can’t believe) we’re talking about this again.”

The game is the second of two road games interrupting a stretch where the Jazz play 10 of 12 at home. Utah goes back home for four consecutive games after the trip to Oklahoma City.

The Thunder return home coming off a winless three-game road trip.

Since winning four consecutive games in early November, Oklahoma City has gone 1-5.

In Monday’s 113-101 loss in Atlanta, the Thunder were without point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the first time this season.

Gilgeous-Alexander sprained his right ankle during Saturday’s loss in Boston.

His absence opened the door for rookie Josh Giddey, the sixth overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, to showcase himself as the Thunder’s primary ball handler.

“He’s not afraid of that at all,” Oklahoma City assistant coach Dave Bliss said. “He’s been extremely open to taking on challenges. For a young player, that’s a big deal.”

Giddey finished with 15 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three turnovers. He was 6-for-13 shooting but 0-for-5 from 3-point range.

“For me it was a learning experience,” Giddey said. “It’s the first time I’ve played without him. I handled the ball a little bit more than I usually would, played a bit more. It was good. I enjoyed it out there.”

Gilgeous-Alexander’s status for Wednesday’s game is unclear. Monday, Bliss characterized Gilgeous-Alexander as day to day.

Giddey said the experience, whether it was a one-game run for now or if it turns into multiple games without Gilgeous-Alexander, will help him develop as a player and help the team in the long run.

“I think I can speak for other guys as well,” Giddey said. “The direction we’re headed is positive.”

Utah has won four consecutive games against the Thunder, sweeping all three meetings last season.

After Bliss spent three games as the Thunder’s acting head coach, Mark Daigneault is expected to return from paternity leave for Wednesday’s game.

–Field Level Media

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