SALT LAKE CITY — The final moments of the Utah Jazz's 94-77 loss to the Dallas Mavericks painted a pretty clear picture of how far the team has fallen in this once-promising season.
The only things the Jazz fans had to cheer for in the last minute were Al Jefferson's ejection and Ronnie Price fouling out.
Other than that, the emptied-out EnergySolutions Arena crowd mostly used its vocal chords in the late going to express displeasure with the refereeing crew that put Dallas on the line for 32 free throws compared to just 17 for the struggling home team.
Not that the Jazz gave the 19,649 spectators much to root for when it counted most. Utah scored a measly 30 points in the second half and watched helplessly as Dallas went on a game-clinching 13-0 run in the latter part of the fourth quarter.
"It's always frustrating to lose," Jefferson said. "Against a team like that, you can't make too many mistakes. So many mistakes we made."
The biggest ones came in the Mavericks' spurt, which began when Jose Barea was left wide open and nailed a 3-pointer from the corner to put Dallas up 71-70 with six minutes remaining.
The Jazz then had back-to-back turnovers, resulting in a Jason Terry trey and a Shawn Marion dunk.
Before Utah regained some lost composure — that was soon to be lost again — the Mavericks had turned the Jazz's 70-68 lead into their own 11-point advantage.
Add that to the pile of losses the Jazz are stacking up.
Utah fell to 36-38 with its fifth consecutive loss and third straight defeat in which the team melted down in crunch time, including Wednesday's 105-94 setback in Oklahoma City and Thursday's overtime heartbreaker against New Orleans.
"We made too many mistakes. I think we got away from what we was doing," Jefferson said. "We kind of let other things get us out of our game instead of us staying focused and doing what we was doing the first three quarters.
"And," Big Al added, "against that type of team you can't make those kind of mistakes."
Terry ended up killing the Jazz off the bench, finishing with a game-high 22 points with four 3-pointers. Dirk Nowitzki did his fair share of damage with 19 points, and Marion added 13 points.
But it was Dallas' defense that really did the Jazz in.
Utah only shot 42.1 percent and struggled mightily as the Mavericks packed the paint. Only three Jazz players scored in double figures, led by Jefferson's 21 points, 16 from C.J. Miles and Millsap's 15.
"They did a great job of staying with what they were doing," Millsap said, "and we kind of deterred from what got us where we was at."
But Millsap thought it had more to do with Utah falling apart and veering from running its offense to its full potential.
"I don't think it was anything they was doing. I think we took ourself out of the equation," Millsap said. "We missed shots that we should've made. We turned the ball over. You can't do that against a team like that."
Dallas improved to 51-21 while sweeping Utah for just the second time in the teams' histories and for the first time in a four-game season series.
Before being sent to the showers early, Jefferson also made his feelings about the officiating known.
First, he cursed after being called for a foul with 48.5 seconds remaining in the close-game-turned-blowout, which resulted in a technical foul.
Following that T, Jefferson approached referee Nick Buchert and mockingly clapped in the officials' face. That resulted in a second $2,500 tech, an automatic ejection and an unimpeded path to his favorite shower stall.
Jefferson held his tongue in the locker room, though.
"I'm speaking on the game," he said. "I don't want to speak on that part because I don't want to say nothing that's going to get me in trouble."
Asked if he regretted clapping in the ref's face, Jefferson again said that he didn't want to comment on the situation.
A minute later, though, he light-heartedly said that his only regret was that his grandmother heard him swear on TV. That, he laughed, won't go over well with her.
But Jefferson has only had two previous technicals, so this was one of the rare times the big man has lost his cool.
"He don't like to lose like just like nobody else like to lose on this team," Millsap said "But it happens."
Added Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin: "I think he was a little frustrated. It's not who we are. We don't want to show anybody up, and we'll have a conversation about it. I think he's just frustrated because he didn't feel he got a couple of calls on the other end."
Corbin doesn't believe it's a reflection of Jefferson's character, though.
"It's just one situation. Al, he's a great guy," Corbin said. "That won't take anything away from that. He was just a little frustrated at the time."
And he certainly wasn't the only one in the building with that emotion.
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