Utah Jazz: Aching Jazz suffer pain of loss to the Rockets
SALT LAKE CITY — It won't show up on the Utah Jazz's official — and very full — injury report.
But there was no doubt that the Jazz's broken hearts ached more Wednesday night than all of the sore and injured body parts — Deron Williams' wrist, Andrei Kirilenko's ankle and Mehmet Okur's back — that forced them to play shorthanded Wednesday night.
Their 97-96 defeat to the Houston Rockets stung more than any setback the Jazz have suffered this season.
The dejection was thick in the locker room moments after C.J. Miles' last-second would-be winner bounced off the rim, handing Utah its eighth loss in 10 games.
"It's definitely tough on your home floor," Miles said in an unusually somber postgame atmosphere.
"This," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan admitted, "was a tough loss."
The Rockets' crafty scorer, Kevin Martin, made the heart-piercing play of the game. There were 6.9 seconds remaining when he lost his defender, Raja Bell, on an excellently executed curl, then momentarily lost the ball before collecting himself and sinking an inside bucket that tied the game.
Jazz center Al Jefferson was called for a foul on Martin's clutch move, and the Houston guard, who had a game-high 22 points, sank the go-ahead free throw for the winning margin.
"A loss is always hard to deal with," Jefferson said. "But this for me hurt the most."
While the Jazz fell to 29-21, they lost for the first time this season in a game decided by less than three points (in four tries).
Utah also dropped to 2-2 in the past four games played without its injured All-Star and leader, Williams.
What really caused them some heart distress was how hard they'd played — including gutsy games by some non-spotlight guys.
Jefferson and Paul Millsap each scored 20 points and hauled in double-digit rebounds to lead the Jazz, and Miles finished with 18 points.
But the loss spoiled the especially inspiring efforts by fill-in starters Earl Watson and Gordon Hayward, along with backup Jeremy Evans.
Watson, in his fourth straight start in Williams' point guard position, finished with a near-triple-double of 11 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Hayward added his first double-digit game in two weeks with 10 points, filling in for Kirilenko as the starting small forward. And Evans came off the bench to slam in a few alley-oops, as usual, en route to eight points, two rebounds and two blocks.
Evans' second dunk gave the Jazz an 86-79 lead early in the fourth quarter, and it appeared Utah was on its way to a nice victory over a team that lost in overtime at Los Angeles to the Lakers the previous night.
But the Rockets fired right back, scoring nine straight points to momentarily take the lead at 91-88.
Utah then seemed to have regained momentum when Millsap scooped in a go-ahead layup with 1:25 remaining. But Martin made the Jazz pay after Millsap and Watson missed shots in the final minute that could have given Utah some breathing room.
Sloan didn't complain about the whistle on Jefferson, but he had just talked to his players during a timeout about not fouling.
"We gave them a three-point play coming down the stretch," he said. "I didn't have a problem with (the call), but we didn't want to foul them on the layup."
Sloan also said the final offensive possession — one that normally would be in Williams' hands — was set up for a Miles shot. He credited the Houston defense for forcing Miles to shoot over the 6-foot-9 Luis Scola from 16 feet out.
"They weren't going to give us a layup," Sloan said. "They weren't going to give us anything. C.J. got something, though."
Miles missed 12 of 18 shots on the night, but Jefferson agreed with his coach's call.
"I think we got the look that we wanted," Jefferson said. "I thought C.J. got his shot, and I really thought it was in, but it didn't go in."
For Houston (22-28), it proved to be sweet revenge for the Jazz's comeback win — rallying from down 16 — in overtime last month at the Toyota Center.
And Martin had some fun with his description of the game-winner, set up by a pass from Shane Battier.
"It's Super Bowl week, you know. Shane was the quarterback right there, and I was the wide receiver and I was in triple coverage," Martin said. "It was just like the Giants when they beat the Patriots, so we wanted to dedicate that to Super Bowl week.
Added Martin: "Shane made a great pass and that was the only place he could have put it and I just threw something up and it went in."
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