Harry How, Getty Images
SALT LAKE CITY — Eyes roll. Heads hang. Shoulders slump.
Bad body language, from hairline to heel.
So much fretting and frowning — and, yes, perhaps even infighting — from the Jazz really does go a long way toward defining just how down they are in a second-round NBA playoff series with the defending league-champion and Western Conference's top-seed Los Angeles Lakers.
It's not just that they were on their way to falling behind 0-2 in the best-of-seven series, though, that had them so dejected early on in Tuesday night's Game 2.
Rather, it's that their uphill battle comes against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers — the very team that eliminated them from each of the past two seasons, and one that makes comeback bids decidedly more daunting than Utah's first-round opponent this postseason.
"The style of play Denver has, you always have a chance to get back in the game," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said Thursday. "They (the Nuggets) shoot themselves in, but they can also shoot themselves out.
"The Lakers aren't gonna do that. They're gonna get quality shots. When they see things going wrong, they're gonna slow it down, they're gonna make sure they do something good."
And odds are they're going to be decidedly proficient doing it.
"You know who they are," backup power forward Paul Millsap added. "You know they're not gonna come down and take any bad shots, and you know they're gonna execute and try to get a good shot every time."
That's how the Jazz feel, and there's arguably nothing wrong with that.
What is problematic, however, is that they're making that mindset known to everyone from Phil Jackson to Jack Nicholson.
It happened to a degree in Game 1 of the series, and it happened much more noticeably when L.A. built a 14-point lead in Game 2's second quarter.
"We tend to get down," Williams said. "We got down 10, 12 points in that first half, and it just kind of looks like a lot more than what it is — and then we start fighting ourselves, fighting each other, and we can't have that happen."
"You can't get discouraged out there, you can't get frustrated," power forward Carlos Boozer added. "You've got to stay positive, you've got to keep hustling, you've got to keep fighting, you've got to keep clawing and scratching all the way until you get a victory."
Even if the Jazz are outsized inside by Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, and even if they are taking a beating on the boards, coach Jerry Sloan suggested, they shouldn't let it all get to them as easily as it seems to be.
"We just can't get our heads down if it happens," Sloan said. "The other night (Tuesday), we got down a little bit in the early part of the first half, and it looked like the game was over."
It wasn't — Utah got back within as few as four before finally succumbing in the fourth quarter — but it sure seemed that way.
"The learning point for them," Sloan said, "is they fought back and got back in the ballgame. Somewhere along the line — if you don't lose your composure — you have a chance."
The Jazz — suggested Millsap, who led the team in scoring Tuesday with 26 points off the bench — usually don't even realize just what their bodies are saying.
The Lakers, though, apparently don't need a Rosetta Stone to understand the language.
"We've learned that," Boozer said. "We've learned that before, saw it happen the previous series (last postseason).
"Myself, Deron (Williams) — from the leaders down, we've got to do a good job of keeping our positivity, keeping our composure. Because if they see us mad, see us getting frustrated, they feed off that, and they get better.
"We can't let them see it," Boozer added. "If something goes wrong, and we don't get what we want, we've just got to stay positive and think that the next time we go at it it's gonna go our way."
Or, as Millsap more succinctly said, "You miss a shot? So what? You get it blocked? Continue to take it to them."
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