EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. As Zoran Planinic's uncontested 77-foot heave at the end of the third quarter found nothing but net, it was as if Lady Luck finally had cashed her get-even chip with the Jazz.
It wasn't long ago, after all just one week, and four games earlier that Jazz point guard Deron Williams got a 61-footer to fall at the end of the third and Utah went on to win its season-opener against Dallas.
It wasn't mere fortune, however, that propelled New Jersey to its 91-83 victory over the Jazz on Wednesday night at Continental Airlines Arena.
Mostly, it was a lack of execution that killed the Jazz.
"It's a perfect example," point guard Keith McLeod said. "If we don't do what we need to do on offense, we end up going 1-on-1, and sometimes that leads to bad shots."
And sometimes that leads to missed shots. And sometimes that leads to lost leads. And this time that led to the Jazz's second defeat of the season, one which seemed destined long before Planinic tossed up a prayer and watched an answer drop.
"Right from the beginning of the game," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said, "they did what they wanted to do. . . . The game was so easy, and they got everything they wanted.
"We didn't put any pressure on them at all," he added. "They didn't have to play under any stress whatsoever. They've probably had a million practices harder than what we gave 'em."
Sloan was disgusted by the Jazz's defensive effort even more than season-low 37.8 percent shooting.
"If they wanted to go baseline, they went baseline. If they wanted to go in the middle, they went up the middle," he said. "We didn't have any idea of what we were trying to do to try to stop 'em. We looked like a very unorganized team."
Despite such reality, the Jazz led by one at halftime and were down just five after Andrei Kirilenko's 3-pointer with five minutes left in the third.
That, though, is when the Jazz's soft-scrimmage mentality hit them hard.
The Nets reeled off a 10-0 run as Utah went scoreless for a 4:25 stretch, mustering only four turnovers, a Kirilenko trey-try airball and misses from Matt Harpring, Jarron Collins and McLeod over nine straight possessions.
Sloan said the Jazz "didn't have any semblance of order out there at all." McLeod, the point at the time of the dry spell, said they "were getting out-hustled for loose balls and everything." Collins said they've "got to play hard basketball" and "control the tempo by executing," and that when they "don't do those things, we'll get beat."
Planicic said goodnight, Utah.
"That was a huge shot," New Jersey's Richard Jefferson said.
It was, sending the Nets into the fourth up 72-57.
But it wasn't necessarily the payback on fate that it might have seemed. Rather, the Jazz say it simply was the result of a breakdown in the basics.
"We practice that over and over," Collins said.
"We've always had a rule in the last second or so: get next to your man," Sloan added. "We weren't even close to the guy."
And the Jazz weren't ever close to the Nets in the fourth.
With Jefferson scoring 17 and dishing 12 assists, and with Vince Carter scoring a game-high 21 points featuring one highlight clip after another, and with Jason Kidd posting 11 points along with his seven assists, and with center Nenad Kristic trumping his season scoring average by scoring 18 on 7-of-9 field shooting, New Jersey had no trouble holding its lead.
Jefferson did the most damage, finishing one rebound shy of a triple-double and making it seem something wasn't quite right with primary defender Kirilenko.
"We had a lot of guys that weren't 'all right,' " Sloan said when asked about Kirilenko, who complained afterward of nothing more than bloody knees. "They make you look like you're not all right sick, or something."
Sloan did change things up a bit to try to overcome the Nets' big advantage, inserting No. 3 point Milt Palacio at the start of the final quarter instead of rookie Williams and benching Mehmet Okur, who had been averaging 23.5 but finished Wednesday with only two points, for all of the last period.
But none of that worked as the Jazz could not come closer than seven in the fourth.
Harpring, for one, suspects he knows why.
"When you're on the road," he said after the Jazz finished the second outing in a four-game Eastern swing that resumes Friday at Toronto, "it just takes a couple plays to get behind. . . . The next thing you know it's an eight-point game, 10-point game.Comment on this story
"Now you're trying to play catch-up, and that's not our style, really. We're good with the lead, or we're good with a close game but when we try to play catch-up, we start forcing things."We've just got to trust our offense," he added. "It works."