Last season, when the Jazz surprised the league and presented themselves as a burgeoning contender in the Western Conference, ball movement and stout defense was the name of the game. And while Utah managed to escape Brooklyn with a much-needed victory Wednesday night, the problems that have hampered the Jazz throughout the early stages of the 2018-19 linger.
The Jazz's offense hasn't played to the same sweet tune it did last season. Even as Donovan Mitchell poured in 13 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, powering Utah to a 101–91 victory, Utah's offensive flow was stagnant, just as Sports Illustrated's Michael Shapiro has previously noted.
Part of the issue is that the Jazz have perhaps relied on Mitchell too much, but struggles behind the arc have continued to haunt Utah. The Jazz went 9-for-28 (32%) from three against the Nets. It's the fifth win Utah has mustered in a game in which it shot 33.3% or worse from the perimeter (5–13 overall) this year.
Last season, the Jazz averaged 10.8 made threes on 29.6 attempts per game (both ranked 13th in the league), and canned 36.6% of them (which ranked 12th). Entering Wednesday, Utah has averaged 10.1 triples on 31.7 attempts (19th and 10th, respectively) per game this season. The Jazz have made only 31.9% of their threes this year.
Summarily, Utah entered Wednesday hitting 6.7% fewer threes while attempting 7.1% more this season.
The addition of veteran sharpshooter Kyle Korver, a career 43% three-point shooter, stands as a chance to improve the Jazz's three-point woes, but not a fix-all solution. Additionally, their inconsistent offensive flow won't be immediately rectified either.
Perhaps some of Utah's unimpressive start can be attributed to its less-than-ideal schedule. Fourteen of the Jazz's first 22 games have been on the road. They are 8–6 in such games.
Six of their first nine games were on the road. They went 4–5 over that stretch. A five-game road trip through the heart of November dropped them to 8–9. They stumbled to a season-worst three games below .500 following a blowout home loss to the Pacers, before beginning another three-game road stretch Wednesday.
Only the Knicks (7–16) have played as many road games this season as the Jazz. The Celtics (11–10) have played 13. The Hawks (5–17), Nets (8–14) and Spurs (10–11) have each played 12. The collective bunch has hovered around .500 or struggled throughout the season.
The Jazz have played no more than three straight home games this season. They won't have a stretch longer until Dec. 22-29, when they host four opponents at Vivint Smart Home Arena. (They haven't looked any more impressive there, however, owning a 2–6 record at home so far.) Perhaps that could mark the turning point in the year. Last season, it wasn't until January that the Jazz stunningly and assertively surged into the playoff conversation after an up-and-down start.
Regardless, while there's plenty of season left, the Jazz will need their offense to get in sync sooner than later.