“Our Biggest Enemy Is Ourselves” | Mental Reset Has Utah Realigned For Bigger Things

Make no mistake, the all-star break came at a perfect time for the Utah Jazz.

It allowed the players to mentally reset, get away from the emotions of the past month and a half, and prepare for the rigors of the final six weeks of the regular season and beyond.

But the break wasn’t exactly perfect — and how could it be after the devastating loss to Los Angeles two weeks ago. Up by 13 in the fourth quarter, Utah collapsed against the Lakers, saw its six-game winning streak end, and sent the Jazz into their eight-day vacation with some curious thoughts lingering.

“You try to take time. … I think honestly, like the biggest thing is trying to get your mind off it,” Donovan Mitchell said last Thursday. “With the way we lost to LA, I probably didn’t stop thinking about that game until about Saturday, Sunday. Just because of how it happened and just finding ways to get back and get ready so it doesn’t happen again.”

Head coach Quin Snyder admitted as much, saying he spent the first few days of the all-star break enjoying time with his wife before finally watching the game against the Lakers and doing what he could to learn from it.

“We had a rough January. … I think that that stretch of injury and COVID-19 and some losses just can take a lot out of you,” Snyder said. “I think for everyone, there’s the point during that time where you’re able to kind of recharge. I think it was good to a lot of our guys, even just mentally and emotionally.”

“I feel like something happened within our team. … I feel like we’re a team that’s trying to accomplish something.”https://t.co/wdCQceBTuV

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 22, 2022

Many of the Jazz players were able to get away right away following the loss to Los Angeles. Whether it was being at home with family or vacationing to a sunny beach — apparently a lot of them went to Cabo — the players were able to get away from the rigors of the game and heal both mentally and physically.

For Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, they had obligations to play in the all-star game, forcing them to put their vacations on hold. But once free of Cleveland, they were able to do the same thing and took full advantage of the downtime.

“It’s not even a rest. … It’s kind of a realignment and kind of seeing things differently, coming back with a different perspective,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes being still allows you to see things differently, allows your thoughts to run differently, allows your mind to kind of go different places. Then when you come back, you know, you come back one with a greater appreciation of the game because you miss it. Then on top of that, it’s like you come back with a whole different perspective, and your priorities and things are aligned the right way and ready to win.”

| “That’s the mark of a team that’s composed, and you understand you’ve got to go through adversity to get to the top.”https://t.co/MC2BQKoFdG

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 23, 2022

Two games back from the break and everybody’s priorities are aligned and pointing in the right direction.

Utah took down the hard-charging Mavericks and first-place Suns on Friday and Sunday. But the most impressive part was how they accomplished the wins — doing so in different ways to show the full strength of the team.

Mitchell and Gobert dominated down the stretch against Dallas, overcoming a late deficit to win with defense. The bench was vital in the victory over the Suns, helping hold off the Suns late with a highly-efficient offense.

“Our biggest enemy is ourselves,” Gobert said. “When we play together and compete defensively, there’s not a team in this league I don’t think we can beat.”

“It feels different, it looks different, you know what I mean?” Mitchell added. “I’m excited because it’s just like you walk off the floor you feel gassed, you feel like everything was just left out there by everybody.”

Interestingly enough, Utah overcame a 4-12 record in January to begin February with six straight wins — but a lot of that hard work felt undone following the loss to the Lakers. Now with victories over two of the top teams in the league, it appears the all-star break more than did its job for the Jazz.

“This year, we went through some stuff. … We went through some adversity, and something happened,” Gobert said. “That shift that happened, it was exciting to see that happen. We don’t take nothing for granted.”

“It’s taken us a while to evolve, kind of sculpt a different identity with different players and so to have games like this. … Tough games, close games, against teams that are really, really good, really disciplined, play defense, is something that can help us,” Snyder said.

What was your favorite win in February?#ByTheNumbers | @Qualtrics pic.twitter.com/i1xtn6eiWQ

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 28, 2022

8-1 in February pic.twitter.com/LB0ugiFGQn

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 28, 2022

Despite the wins, the Jazz are well aware that they won’t mean anything unless they continue to take care of business moving forward.

Utah will now face Houston, New Orleans, and Oklahoma City in their next three games. The Pelicans sit at No. 10 in the Western Conference Standings while the Rockets and Thunder are the bottom two teams.

“We can’t stop. … We have Houston next,” Mitchell said. “Are we going to go and play well, or are we going to act like we won a championship because we won a couple of games? We really have to keep playing the way we have been playing. … That’s going to be important going forward.”

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