Following Monday’s loss to Phoenix, Utah head coach Will Hardy sat down for his postgame media conference and expressed frustration after what had just unfolded over the previous 48 minutes of game time.
“I feel for our guys tonight,” he said, exasperated. “I’m frustrated for them because I think they came into tonight’s game with a good mindset. I think they tried to move the ball, I think we went through long stretches of time where we couldn’t make shots. … That tends to make people antsy.”
It was a rare “outburst” from Hardy, if it can even be called that. The normally stoic coach typically uses humor to move on from difficult losses, such as his approach to the shellacking received against Milwaukee just under a week ago.
“We almost had them,” he told his team sarcastically after their 28-point loss to the Bucks last Friday.
Hardy’s postgame talk on Monday differed from others in the past because he struggled to find a reason why the team lost. Sure, they struggled to knock down open shots despite executing their offense at a high rate — but this team has overcome that in the past when doing all of the other things right, which they did.
“You hear people say all the time, ‘It’s a make or miss league at times.’ I’m not always a believer in that,” he said. “There are moments where the ball does need to go in a few times in order to help you regain the rhythm of the game. … It’s hard to play a game when you’re going through long stretches of not scoring.”
For Utah, it’s about turning the page and controlling what they can moving forward. There are still seven games left in the regular season, which means there are seven more opportunities for this time to gain more experience playing together on the court and, possibly, make one last push toward the postseason.
That starts with Wednesday’s showdown against the undermanned Spurs in San Antonio, the first of three straight on the road.
“You’re gonna have bad nights. … That’s expected,” Kessler said. “I just don’t like to lose in general, so every loss is not a pleasant experience. … But you can’t let it get you down too much.”
Hardy also alluded to changes coming to Utah’s rotation, especially after his second unit struggled to score in the early minutes of the fourth quarter against Phoenix. It would help that Simone Fontecchio is expected to return to action, but he’ll most likely do so in the starting lineup as Lauri Markkanen is OUT against the Spurs.
“We’ve got to figure out offensively what we’re going to do with that group to try to generate some easier baskets,” he said. “Some of that’s gonna take a little bit of time, but we don’t have time. … We’ve got to figure out a way as a staff to help that group generate some better shots. We may need to look at changing up the substitution patterns a little bit and trying to mix that group some.”
Utah (35-40, 13-24 away / No. 12 Western Conference)
*117.3 Points Per Game (No. 6 in NBA)
*115.8 Offensive Rating (No. 6 in NBA)
*117.8 Points Per Game (No. 24 in NBA)
*116.2 Defensive Rating (No. 24 in NBA)
*Kelly Olynyk: 12.2 points | 5.9 rebounds | 3.6 assists | 38.5% 3P-shooting
*Walker Kessler (Last 10 Games): 13.7 points | 9.9 rebounds | 3.1 blocks
*Ochai Agbaji (Last 10 Games): 12.9 points | 2.8 rebounds | 39.4% 3P-shooting
*Simone Fontecchio (Last 10 games): 12.3 points | 40.4% 3P-shooting
San Antonio (19-56, 13-25 home/ No. 14 Western Conference)
*113.7 Points Per Game (No. 18 in NBA)
*114.4 Offensive Rating (No. 13 in NBA)
*112.0 Points Per Game (No. 6 in NBA)
*112.6 Defensive Rating (No. 8 in NBA)
*Devonte Graham: 14.0 points | 4.3 assists | 2.6 rebounds | 36.5% 3P-shooting
*Tre Jones: 12.4 points | 6.3 assists | 3.5 rebounds
*Zach Collins: 11.4 points | 6.3 rebounds | 2.8 assists | 38.2% 3P-shooting
*Walker Kessler vs. Zach Collins
— It’s been quite a past few games for Kessler, dropping a career-high 31 points against Sacramento before tying a career-high with seven blocks against Phoenix. He’ll be called upon again on Wednesday night as San Antonio has nobody who can match his size and length in its frontcourt — which puts all the pressure on Zach Collins.
AVAILABLE | Simone Fontecchio (left foot - turf toe)
AVAILABLE | Micah Potter (G League - Two-Way)
OUT | Lauri Markkanen (left hand contusion)
OUT | Jordan Clarkson (left hand - fourth finger sprain)
OUT | Rudy Gay (low back soreness)
OUT | Collin Sexton (left hamstring strain)
OUT | Charles Bassey (Left Patella; Non-displaced fracture)
OUT | Khem Birch (Right knee; Chondromalacia)
OUT | Keldon Johnson (Left Foot; Injury Management)
OUT | Jeremy Sochan (Right Knee; Soreness)
OUT | Devin Vassell (Left Knee; Injury Management)
Time: 6:00 p.m. MT
Location: AT&T Center |San Antonio, TX
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: The Zone Sports Network