INDIANAPOLIS — The Utah Jazz didn't win Tuesday night, falling 104-99 to the Indiana Pacers for their second road loss in as many nights.
But they showed a few things in this one at Bankers Life Fieldhouse that they didn't in Monday's embarrassing 99-88 setback to the no-name Knicks.
Fire. Life. Desire.
At least in the second half, when they turned a 21-point deficit into a brief three-point lead.
"We just started getting into the game, if you will," Jazz guard Raja Bell said. "It felt like we were kind of sleepwalking through the first half and the first segment of the third quarter. Once we got moving, we played pretty well."
With 8:04 remaining in the third, the Jazz found themselves trailing by 21 points, 71-50, after a Danny Granger basket.
"We didn't like our effort until the third quarter," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "If we would have done what we did three to four minutes into that third quarter for the rest of the game, then we could play with anybody. On the road, you can't afford to dig a hole like we did."
Up to that point, there were approximately two positives for this 13-11 team that has now lost four of five games.
For one, Gordon Hayward, who won a state title with nearby Brownsburg High School on this same court in 2008, was playing well for the hometown crowd, which included quite a few in No. 20 Jazz jerseys.
The second was a stretch, but at least Utah was getting thumped by players whose names are recognizable — unlike in New York (flashback: Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak).
But just like that, things changed — almost with the flick of Bell's wrist on a 3-pointer.
Utah got its shovels out and start digging its way out of the hole, pulling within seven by the end of the third and taking momentum into the fourth.
"We just started playing," Jazz power forward Paul Millsap said. "In the first half, we didn't have very good energy. We just weren't in sync in the first half, and against a good team like the Pacers you can't do that."
Didn't work so well against a bad Knicks team, either.
The Jazz credited their defensive effort for helping them eventually take the lead — completing a 22-point turnaround — on two Josh Howard free throws with just under eight minutes remaining.
Indiana and Utah traded leads for a while. But the Pacers took control down the stretch when a Paul George 3-pointer and a Roy Hibbert putback contrasted against an Al Jefferson travel, five Big Al missed shots in the final 2:42 and a costly 24-second shot-clock violation as Millsap stumbled.
"Shots I make all the time," said the 6-foot-10 Jefferson, matched against 7-2 Hibbert. "But they just didn't fall for me."
Jefferson thought the Jazz's 17 turnovers, leading to 15 Pacers' points, was a game-changing stat. Indiana only turned the ball over eight times.
"We're not good enough to turn off and on like that," Jefferson added. "I think the effort was there more tonight than last night. We made too many mistakes as far as turning over the ball."
Granger hit a jumper with 25.7 seconds remaining to put the Pacers up by five. Jazz point guard Devin Harris responded quickly, trimming the lead to three.
Then Granger, who finished with 16 points, drained clutch free throws.
That left the Jazz grasping to take some momentum back to Utah, where they have two days off before an important and rare home game against the NBA's best team, Oklahoma City.
"We just came out really loose on defense and were just playing flat," said Hayward, repeating a refrain heard often in the Jazz locker room Monday at Madison Square Garden. "It was tough to be able to bail ourselves out of a hole like that. But we just kept on fighting and we kept punching to get back to the lead."
The Jazz, however, were outscored 12-4 after Millsap's two free throws put them up 95-92 with 3:47 left.
"Unfortunately," Hayward added, "at times we let them do what they wanted to do and we just couldn't finish at the end."
A night after the Jazz experienced the raging "Lin-sanity" in New York (28 points from the Harvard point guard), Pacers playmaker Darren Collison burned Utah for 25 points.
Hibbert also had 17 for Indiana, which improved to 17-7.
Millsap bounced back from a rough night in New York to lead the Jazz with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Jefferson added 16 points, and a total of six Jazz players hit double figures. However, for the second straight game, Utah trailed off in the fourth quarter.2 comments on this story
On Monday, the Jazz lost after scoring just 15 in the final period, and on Tuesday, perhaps having run out of steam, they had a game-low 22 in the last 12 minutes of this back-to-back defeat.
Almost two-thirds of the season remains, but the Jazz suddenly find themselves in the No. 9 spot in the Western Conference with a whole lot of tough road tests coming up.
Utah had climbed as high as No. 2 in the West prior to losing six of their past 10 games.
"We've got to wake up," Jefferson said. "We got to start doing it, because we're going to find ourselves on the outside looking in."
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