Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
The soup is supposed to be tastier here. The beds comfier. The fans, certainly, much friendlier.
Amid a cascade of second-half boos from a sold-out EnergySolutions Arena crowd, the 13-9 Jazz fell to Portland 97-89 Tuesday night, lost for the fourth straight time overall and saw their eight-game home winning streak come to a close.
So much for returning to the sweet comfort of familiar surroundings.
"We thought coming back home," backup power forward Paul Millsap said, "was going to give us a lot of energy."
Not so much.
The Jazz never led by more than four points Tuesday, trailed throughout the entire final three quarters and despite Carlos Boozer's 29-point, 13-rebound double-double found themselves down by as many as 18 points late in the third period.
When Portland when up by 17 earlier in the quarter on a 3-pointer from 25-point team-high scorer Martell Webster, in fact, EnergySolutions boo-birds could be heard chirping in unison.
No one was debating afterward whether or not it was deserved.
"They out-hustled us," point guard Deron Williams said. "It seemed like they wanted it more... It just seemed like they were playing harder."
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan had to agree on an evening his club looked lost playing both against the zone and in it.
"We didn't have any idea where we were on the floor in the zone," Sloan said. "I believe we've played 20-some games they should have an idea of what we're doing.
"But I think we all pretty much saw," he added, "that we didn't make the effort to try to guard 'em."
The Jazz found no more success on the other end, either.
"We normally don't play that much zone, but we felt like we could guard them with (it)," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "Boozer and (Williams), their shots weren't falling early and what we wanted to do was pack it in, and just take away their cuts."
It worked, as 9-12 Portland now on a four-game winning streak took a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter.
The Jazz did see a glimmer of hope in that final period, mostly riding the play subs Jason Hart, Gordan Giricek, Matt Harpring, Millsap and Jarron Collins started the quarter to twice get to within as close as four, once when Giricek nailed a 3-pointer and again when Harpring did the same.
The charge was led in Sloan's eyes by Hart, who had no assists but five points in his 14 minutes.
"Boy did he stick out like a sore thumb," the Jazz coach said of Williams' backup. "I mean, he was all over the place. He's working, and trying to get something going. And I'm looking around, (wondering) where is the rest of everybody else?"
Utah still was within five with 3:31 left, but that's when the Jazz's comeback steam went dry.
Giricek was called for a body foul on a trey try by Portland's Brandon Roy, and Roy who scored nine of his 16 points in the fourth hit all three free throws.
Giricek later suggested he might have bumped bodies with Roy.
"I mean, just slight contact," he said. "He (Roy) fall on the floor, (the official) called the foul. What can I say, right?"
The Jazz's next two possessions ended with unsuccessful plays by Williams, one a turnover and the other a missed layup as he drove the lane.
"You can't do it by yourself," Sloan said.
What you can do it with, the Jazz coach added, is something of which Utah showed not nearly enough.
"You've got to play this game with emotion," he said.
The Jazz did not, and Sloan thinks it's reflective of larger issues for last season's NBA Western Conference finalists.
"Now maybe we've established ourselves and don't think we have to prove it every game," said Sloan, whose Jazz visit Phoenix tonight to close a back-to-back set and start a stretch with six of seven away from home."That's a concern I have," Sloan added. "Because you have to prove it every day, whoever you are. You have to come and really give a good effort. Anything other than that is really not good enough for us to win, because we really aren't that talented."
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