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Jazz struggle on both ends of floor in 110-94 loss to Thunder

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. • Well, the Jazz did acknowledge after rallying back to beat the Pelicans on Thursday that there was still plenty to improve upon.

So from a certain point of view, Saturday’s 110-94 manhandling by the Oklahoma City Thunder is simply extra confirmation of that assessment.

Of course, such a rose-colored-glasses estimation was hardly realistic for anyone who watched Utah’s second seeding game, let alone anyone who actually participated in it.

The Thunder’s aggressive perimeter defenders smothered Utah’s ballhandlers all night, preventing them from initiating the offense in a timely fashion. Meanwhile, the Jazz’s propensity for both over-dribbling and remaining rooted to spots on the court really didn’t help either.

Too many possessions were defined by Jordan Clarkson dribbling, being cut off, circling out, dribbling and driving again, and then eventually chucking a contested midrange attempt (he shot 4 for 17). Too many more saw Donovan Mitchell finally gain a step on his man, turn the corner and draw the defense, only to fire an off-target pass (he shot 5 for 15, and committed four turnovers).

The result was Utah shooting just 39.1% from the floor, and going only 8 of 31 from deep.

But then, it’s not as though the team’s problems were limited to just one end of the court.

A seemingly endless cycle of inexplicable and needless help rotations on OKC’s penetrators resulted in shooters on the wing being left open — time after time after time.

While the Jazz eventually ratcheted up its defensive efficacy after the break, they were undone by a first half that saw Oklahoma City shoot 64.9% from the field and go 7 of 14 from deep.

And really, the Jazz didn’t slow the Thunder down sufficiently at any point to ever gain any real traction toward a legitimate comeback — cutting their deficit to 19 a minute into the fourth quarter was about as close as it got down the stretch before the meaningless final minutes.

This story will be updated.

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