Utah Jazz players were certain that the loss of control they suffered late in Monday's 91-79 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Utah's first home loss of the 2007 NBA Playoffs, was not what beat them.
The 27 fouls, the 17 turnovers, they were the bigger culprits in sending the Jazz to San Antonio for Wednesday night's game down three games to one, meaning they must win or go clean out their lockers.
But the way Utah's self-control began slipping is perhaps some cause for concern.
"Yeah, definitely," said point guard Deron Williams, who led all scorers with 27 points and assisters with 10. "It's something we haven't done all playoffs. We've been the team that generally kept our heads, kept our cool.
"You saw Golden State get frustrated a little bit and lose their heads at the end of games," Williams noted. And the Jazz ended up rather easily evicting the Warriors from the playoffs in five games, perhaps because their emotions got away from them.
"We've been a team that's kept our composure, and tonight we didn't do that. They were the team that did that," Williams said of the three-time NBA-champion Spurs, who came back from Saturday's 109-83 drubbing by the Jazz to play like it never even happened.
"That's not where the game was won at though. It was pretty late when we lost our heads," Williams said.
Derek Fisher, one who somewhat lost his control, enough to get two technical fouls to go with six regular fouls, agreed with Williams.
"I don't know if that is the reason we lost the game," he said. "Obviously, in those last few minutes emotions were running pretty high, but I don't think that in the second half as a whole that our emotions got the best of us and didn't allow us to try to really lay it out there. The game was back and forth."
He said he thought the officials assumed the game was getting out of hand and were trying to assume control.
Fisher picked up a technical foul with 2:34 left in the fourth quarter, Utah down 87-73, when he and Spur Manu Ginobili bumped in the backcourt after some flailing under the Spurs basket. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who'd picked up a technical at 11:15 of the fourth when Paul Millsap was called for a foul on a Ginobili layup, got his second and an ejection after Fisher's first tech.
With 52 seconds left in the game, Fisher fouled Ginobili again, his sixth, and got his second tech.
"It's tough," said Andrei Kirilenko of the turmoil that brewed, "but we should be a little bit probably less aggressive defensively and not get into foul trouble. They've been aggressive offensively, going for the layup and get fouled."Comment on this story
Kirilenko didn't think Utah lost its cool. "I don't really think it's composure because the style of the game was kind of nervous. It's just emotions. You can't play the game without emotions ... probably you can but very hard to do," he said.
And the Spurs were good at stirring the pot by controlling the game. "They take teams out of their rhythm. That's what they do. They took us out of this game. They learned their mistakes in Game 3 and come out with a different strategy," said Kirilenko, who's not planning on going belly up just yet."It's a series until four wins. We're going to fight," he said, meaning figuratively and not literally.