CHICAGO If it wasn't fatigue or travel trouble and everyone with the Jazz insisted it was neither it had to be something else.
Because the Chicago Bulls dominated down the stretch in a 106-98 Jazz loss Saturday night at the United Center, and they were a team that had made a less-than-convenient weekend trek as well.
"We're not going to make excuses," point guard Deron Williams said after the 17-12 Jazz fell to 2-2 on a five-game Eastern road trip that concludes Tuesday night in Milwaukee.
"They had to fly, they didn't get in till late," Williams said. "You know, they played (Friday) night. We've just got to have a little bit more energy."
Perhaps a few late-game calls, then, turned the tide.
After rookie point guard Derrick Rose put the Bulls ahead with two free throws that made it 93-92 with just fewer than five minutes to go and followed that with a fastbreak dunk sparked by an errant Mehmet Okur-to-Paul Millsap pass, one of 20 Jazz turnovers leading to 29 Chicago points Williams tried unsuccessfully to answer with a drive to the hole of his own.
He thought he got wacked by Andres Nocioni of the Bulls, but referee Gary Zielinski signaled Nocioni was straight up.
And as Williams stood and stared at Zielinski in disbelief, 26-point game-high scorer Ben Gordon was well on his way to knocking down a 3-pointer on the other end that made it 98-92 with 4:04 left.
Twenty-three-point team-high scorer Okur did respond after a timeout with a conventional three-point play, but the 13-14 Bulls hit 6-of-8 free throws in the final 2:23 to notch just their second sweep of the Jazz in 12 seasons.
"I don't think he got what he wanted a couple times as he went in there," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said of Williams and the lane. "I thought maybe he got fouled on a couple of 'em, but that's just wishful thinking on my part."
Asked if he was frustrated by the no-call, Williams who after the game iced not only his sprained left ankle, but also a knot in his right calf and a bruise near his right knee asked which one.
"That was frustrating," he said of the Nocioni play. "The one before that was frustrating. You know, a lot of them were frustrating."
Sloan was quite flustered, too, albeit more so by the Jazz's late-game shot selection.
"We got a little bit 3-point happy coming down the stretch, taking 3-point shots and not taking advantage of the size difference," he said with reference to Chicago's small lineup. "We took the shots from outside, and that's when they beat us down the floor and got some easy baskets and put us out of rhythm."
Okur and Andrei Kirilenko both missed two trey tries in the decisive fourth quarter, and Williams missed one.
That, Sloan suggested, harmed his club much more than its winter-weather woes and a taxing double-overtime win over the Detroit Pistons.
Because inclement conditions prevented their charter plane from making it to Detroit on Friday night, the Jazz had an early wakeup call Saturday and didn't make it to snowy Chicago until about 10 a.m. local time.
A storm that blanketed the Detroit area with more than eight inches of snow earlier Friday reportedly was the worst to hit that city in 25 years, and as a result the Jazz as they typically would on the second day of a back-to-back road set did not hold their morning breakfast meeting.37 comments on this story
Sloan, though, didn't want to hear about any of that on a night in which the Bulls, who themselves arrived early Saturday morning from Boston, out-rebounded Utah 42-33.
Instead, he retold a favorite tale to illustrate his point, drawing on his own playing days as an NBA rookie with the Baltimore Bullets.
"No. It shouldn't be," the Jazz coach said when asked if double-OT and the travel was at least a factor. "I played enough basketball to know. We played five games in five days in five different cities. You should be tired, probably, in that. Especially when you go from the East Coast to the West Coast back to the East Coast."So I don't like to hear people say you should be tired when you're getting paid to play basketball," Sloan added, "because guys working 8-to-5, they don't want to hear about a guy being tired."