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Utah Jazz muster lackluster effort in 'Nawlins'

Published: Monday, Feb. 13 2012 11:44 p.m. MST

Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap (24) dunks the ball over New Orleans Hornets power forward Gustavo Ayon (15) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, Feb. 13, 2012. The Hornets won their fifth game this season 86-80.(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — The Utah Jazz did it again.

Win?

Ha. Good one.

Play inconsistently, lose focus, fall apart on the road, show a lack of effort and make fans scream at TVs and computers while losing to a vastly inferior and undermanned team?

Yep. That's it.

"It just feels like a dream," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "I wish I could wake up."

Unfortunately, Utah players and coaches can't pinch themselves out of this nightmare.

A night after looking like a sure-bet playoff team in a 10-point win at Memphis, the Jazz looked as awkward and out of sorts as a couple of wholesome missionaries on Bourbon Street.

And, yes, they did that against a four-win team.

Scratch that. The New Orleans Hornets improved to a lofty 5-23 with this unlikely 86-80 win over a terrific-one-night-terrible-the-next Jazz squad.

Embarrassing. Surprised. Disappointing.

Beyond disappointing. Flat. No excuse.

Lack of concentration. Wheels fell off. Heads weren't into it.

By the way, these weren't a sports writer's words to describe getting stung by a Hornets team that had lost 23 of 25 coming into Monday's game.

These descriptions of this devastating and demoralizing defeat came from the Jazz, who blew an opportunity to build on momentum gained (or apparently not) from Sunday's nice win over the Grizzlies.

"We should be ashamed of ourselves, I know that," Jefferson said. "We just didn't play like we wanted tonight. There's no way in the world we should've lost to that team. But we did."

The Jazz weren't playing incredibly well, but they did take an early eight-point lead and looked well on their way to cruising into Oklahoma City with wins in their first two road games in this back-to-back-to-back set.

After all, NBA-owned New Orleans had dropped eight straight.

Plus, because of injuries, the post-Chris-Paul-era Hornets were without key players like Eric Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack.

Sound familiar?

And, no, they didn't have someone named Jeremy Lin hiding on the bench.

But they did have Chris Kaman, who scored 27 points, hauled in 13 rebounds and was instrumental in turning Utah's eight-point lead into a 20-point lead of their own.

New Orleans also had somebody named Gustavo Ayon calling for the ball and Marco Belinelli, who each contributed 13 points. Greivis Vasquez had 12 points and 10 assists — more dimes than the entire starting Jazz squad had in their pockets by the end.

"No disrespect to New Orleans," Jefferson said, "(but) it's like New York. They was missing some key players and I guess we just walked out there thinking they were going to let us win. We just can't do that."

Or they'll lose by six points to a team that's so bad — second-worst to three-win Charlotte — it even hurt its own lottery chances by beating the 14-13 Jazz.

"For right now, it's the most disappointing (loss) for me," a stunned Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "It's tough after the way we played last night. I just didn't expect us to come out with this effort."

Or lack thereof — especially in the middle of the game when the Jazz had successive 15-point quarters and their offense was off searching for a Mardi Gras parade or beads or something other than executing properly.

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