SALT LAKE CITY — While losing two road games, the Utah Jazz believe they relearned valuable lessons.
Simply put, if they don't play hard from tipoff to the final buzzer, they're going to lose a lot more games.
Some New York understudies and an Eastern Conference contender gave them that refresher course in back-to-back losses Monday and Tuesday.
"We've got to play 48 minutes every game we step on the court," power forward Paul Millsap said.
"Obviously," point guard Devin Harris said, "we've just got to give a better effort for 48 minutes."
Utah flipped the switch on for about 20 minutes in the second half Tuesday, allowing the Jazz to storm back and take a lead after trailing by 21 points to the Pacers. The night before Utah's 104-99 loss to Indiana, the Jazz turned up the effort dial for a quarter or so before fizzling down the stretch to a starless squad in New York.
When they play what Al Jefferson calls "Utah Jazz basketball" — defending and executing with energy — this team looks like it belongs in the playoffs. Otherwise, they can't even keep up with the Steve Novaks and Iman Shumperts of the world nor stay within 20 points of a solid team like the Pacers.
They lose to Toronto and Golden State, yet beat the Lakers and Nuggets.
They go 8-2 during a brilliant 10-game period, and follow that with a shaky 4-6 stretch.
Heck, sometimes they're the Globetrotters and the Generals in the same quarter.
"We can play with anybody. But if we don't play with that kind of intensity on both ends of the floor, it's going to be tough for us," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "It's a lesson learned. Hopefully, we can move from this point on. Especially on the road, you can't dig a hole for yourself."
Of course, knowing and doing are two different things.
Jazz players must be accountable for individual actions, Corbin insisted. Team success will follow.
Asked about the Jazz's struggles against point guards on consecutive nights — the Knicks' Jeremy Lin exploded for a career-high 28 points and Indiana's Darren Collison had 25 — Corbin said it isn't just one or two guys who need to improve.
"Everybody's got to give us an effort," he said. "Guys got to make sure we stay between our man and the basket and just continue to work on it."
The Jazz defense received a boost when they began pressuring Indiana for 94 feet and Utah's bigs helped attack the pick-and-roll up high, Corbin explained. Small forward Gordon Hayward and Harris said the Jazz need to be more aggressive in dictating what direction opponents go on offense.
Once that happened in Haywardland, the comeback kicked in.
"We made everything difficult for them," Corbin said. "Our level of intensity picked up. It's a positive thing because this team has a lot of pride. We knew that we weren't playing up to our ability and they took it up a level. But we've got to do that from the beginning of the ballgame."
The Jazz had Wednesday off to rest up from the road trip, but they'll be on the practice court again today, with a big home game looming Friday night against the NBA's best team, Oklahoma City.
After that, it's back to charter planes, hotels and visitors' locker rooms for four of their next six games, including their back-to-back-to-back challenge.
"We've got to focus. It's our home building," Corbin said. "It's a great ballclub coming into our building on Friday night, so we've got to be ready to play and we've got to be ready from jump ball. We can't wait and let our crowd do it. We've got to be ready to do it ourself."
"It's a tough road trip for us," Hayward added after Utah fell to 2-7 away from EnergySolutions Arena. "But we've got to go home and get back on track."4 comments on this story
A win over the Thunder would do that. But then Utah will be in Memphis, New Orleans and Oklahoma City for games Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
Still, even though they lost, the Jazz hope Tuesday's second-half effort was a turning point.
Added Corbin: "That's what you build on."