Dating back to last season, the Utah Jazz have never lost more than two straight games yet now they find themselves in an unfamiliar slump.

Since Rudy Gobert sat out due to left shoulder inflammation and later on entered COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the Jazz have gone 1-3, with their latest and third consecutive loss being a 126-116 defeat to the lowly Detroit Pistons.

Donovan Mitchell had a game-high 31 points, while Hassan Whiteside did his best Gobert impression with 21 points, 14 rebounds, two steals, and three blocks. In fact, Utah scored the game’s first seven points and looked to be cruising to another solid win after building a lead that ballooned to as large as 22 points in the third quarter.

Unfortunately, the Jazz could not follow through and stop the Pistons’ hot 3-point shooting. Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, and Cory Joseph combined for 14 3-pointers, more than what Utah finished with (11) in this game. Cunningham also took over down the stretch, slowly but surely atoning for his slow start to the 2021-2022 season.

The loss to Detroit pretty much encapsulated the Jazz’s struggles in this current losing streak: failure to dominate the boards and allowing their opponents to shoot well from behind the 3-point line. 

Utah Jazz Rebounding and 3-point Shooting (Last 3 Games)

Utah Jazz 3FG%Opp 3FG%Utah Jazz RPGOpp RPG

Adding the numbers from Utah’s win over the Denver Nuggets (which was the first game Gobert sat out) does little to help their cause.

Utah Jazz Rebounding and 3-point Shooting (Last 4 Games)

Utah Jazz 3FG%Opp 3FG%Utah Jazz RPGOpp RPG

Hassan Whiteside can somewhat replicate Gobert’s defensive abilities albeit to a smaller degree but defending the perimeter takes a total team effort. When Whiteside gets involved on pick-and-roll defense, he doesn’t have the three-time Defensive Player of the Year’s quickness to get back nor the extra reach to cover more ground so adjustments have to be made on the parts of the Jazz’s wingmen.


Utah head coach Quin Snyder may need to take a more team-oriented approach on defense and he has capable defenders in Royce O’Neale, Mike Conley, and Donovan Mitchell. Sure, Conley is getting up there in age and Mitchell’s defense ebbs and flows depending on his engagement level on that end, but their limitations aren’t an excuse for close outs like this.

The offense will always be there for Utah, even if the gravity Gobert draws in the paint versus that of Whiteside is different. Adjustments will just have to be made on that end, and they can take advantage of Whiteside’s ability to take his game to the perimeter. Screen plays now take on a different meaning as Whiteside can take jumpshots, but this could also tighten openings for the Jazz’s shooters as there will be possessions where the defense need not tighten up as much to close the gap.

It may not be the only gap Utah should be concerned with as their hold on the third seed in the Western Conference over the surging Memphis Grizzlies has now been trimmed to just half a game. In the postseason, where matchups take precedence over regular season success, where the Jazz end up in terms of seeding could be the difference between a title run and an early and disappointing exit.

Thankfully, we’re at the halfway point of the NBA season and there remains a lot of basketball to be played between now and April. Gobert will be back in the coming days should he clear health and safety protocols and how opposing teams view Utah will likely also change. His return would also mean more depth for Utah and should help them develop their rotation in time for the playoffs.

In the meantime, the Jazz’s next few games present some intriguing matchups as they face the trio of Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, and Lauri Markkanen along with the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers followed by a rematch with Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets. The Los Angeles Lakers also present an intriguing matchup with LeBron James at center. These teams may be in the middle of the pack in terms of 3-point shooting but a good night from them from behind the 3-point arc could spell trouble for the Jazz if they are not careful.

It’s warranted to think that the Utah Jazz have lost three straight games due to Rudy Gobert’s absence but that isn’t the be-all and end-all. Basketball is a team sport and the other guys on the floor can still tip the scales in the Jazz’s favor. Time is still on their side but the moment to make adjustments is now.