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Johnny Juzang’s career-night not enough as Jazz lose 12th straight

SAN FRANCISCO — About a week ago, Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy gave Johnny Juzang some advice: All minutes are good minutes.

It didn’t matter if it was in the G League or another lopsided loss — the Jazz fell to Golden State 118-110 on Sunday in San Francisco — there should always be meaning when a player steps on the court.

The thing is Juzang probably didn’t need the reminder. He knows what it’s like to be on the big stage and knows what it’s like to be nearly forgotten.

It’s been three years since Juzang was one of the most talked about basketball players on the first weekend of April.

Then, Juzang led UCLA to an improbable Final Four appearance, earning a run of accolades on the way. He scored half of the Bruins’ points in an Elite Eight victory, was named the top player of the East Region, and had 28 points in UCLA’s overtime loss in the national semifinal game.

Three years later, Juzang caught fire again.

The Utah Jazz two-way wing scored a career-high 27 points — including a scorching 22-point first half — in Utah’s loss at the Warriors.

“Johnny’s put in a lot of hard work the last two years,” Hardy said. “Coming out of UCLA, Johnny was a scorer — he did a little bit of everything. We’ve tried to help Johnny transition into a little bit more of a shooter mindset.”

He proved to be pretty comfortable in that role Sunday. Juzang ran around the perimeter hunting 3s, hitting his first five attempts and finishing 7-of-8 from deep.

“I thought tonight he did a really good job of showcasing a lot of the work that he’s done,” Hardy said. “In particular, I’m happy with how he was running in transition.”

Hardy pointed out that Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Steph Curry have used transition opportunities to find open triples, even as teams have keyed on them for over a decade now (Thompson made six 3-pointers Sunday for the Warriors; Curry sat out for rest). Juzang, similarly, ran the open court to get clean looks on his career night.

“I’m very proud of the work that Johnny has done,” Hardy said. “He hasn’t gotten a ton of credit the last two years because he hasn’t gotten as much time with us as maybe he’s wanted. But he’s stayed ready. He’s put the work in, he takes really good care of his body — Johnny is very well-conditioned. I think it’s one of his strengths that isn’t talked about very much, so it’s always nice to see a night like tonight where the work pays off.”

Juzang credited his teammates for finding him and the prep he’s done with the Jazz coaching staff. It also helped to see the first shot go down — a step-back 3-pointer. That kickstarted a four-minute stretch to finish the first quarter when Juzang hit four triples.

“Just got it rolling early and found a rhythm,” he said. “That’s something I’ve been focusing on just finding a rhythm, taking my time with the shot. The looks were there early, they found me, and coach trusted me.”

And he rewarded that trust with the best game of his Jazz career.

It just didn’t come in a win. The Jazz, once again, were foiled by their slow start and fell behind by double digits in the first quarter and never recovered. It was Utah’s 12th straight loss — the third-longest losing streak in franchise history.

So when asked what Juzang still wants to accomplish this season, the answer was easy:

“Get a win.”

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