Each game is very important. So I think we just got to learn from this one and try to move on. It's just very frustrating. —Gordon Hayward
OKLAHOMA CITY — Based on recent happenings, it's possible the Washington Wizards suddenly circled Friday on their calendar.
Heck, the University of Utah men's basketball team could show up at EnergySolutions Arena that night, too.
The Utah Jazz are down, and there might not be a better time to take advantage of that.
A three-games-in-three-nights road trip that began with such promise Sunday in Memphis ended with a thundering thud Tuesday when Oklahoma City put a size 111-85 boot on the Jazz's backend and booted them back to Utah.
"It is the third night of a back-to-back-to-back," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "Everybody is a little tired and we ran out of gas."
And, yes, he was talking about playing on fumes Tuesday in Oklahoma City, not Monday in New Orleans.
It might sound strange to some, but the Jazz were still lamenting Monday's demoralizing loss in New Orleans even more than they bemoaned their biggest blowout defeat of the year.
It's one thing to get thunderstruck by the NBA's best team, especially considering OKC has Kevin Durant (21 points), Russell Westbrook (16 points, five rebounds, four assists) and sixth-man-of-the-year candidate James Harden (22 points).
On top of that, the Thunder hadn't played since trouncing the Jazz in Utah by 14 points on Friday and rested while Corbin's club was off on the lockout-special tripleheader.
There's also that little matter of how injury-plagued New Orleans had four wins and about that many recognizable players when Utah came to town.
"I think (Monday) night's more disappointing than this one," Jazz guard Earl Watson said. "(That one) could've gave us a nice two out of three on the road. That would've been great, but we let it slip away."
As Corbin predicted, Durant & Co. showed no mercy to their road-weary visitors Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
It didn't help the Jazz's cause that they showed no mercy to the rim and air around the basketball standard to begin the game.
Utah made one of its first 16 shots to quickly fall behind by 12 points.
The Jazz trimmed the lead to three — thanks mostly to the early hot hand of Al Jefferson, who had 11 of his team-high 15 in the first quarter.
But OKC stormed back into the locker room with a commanding 53-39 lead, and only a few questions remained for the second half.
Would Utah suffer its worse loss of the season?
Would Jeremy Evans and Jamaal Tinsley convince Corbin to give them some Valentine's Day playing time love?
And, would one of the Jazz players yank off Harden's fake-looking burly beard?
Yes, the 26-point was a point worse than the 96-71 season-opening drubbing Utah suffered against the Lakers in Los Angeles on Dec. 27.
Yes, Evans and Tinsley each played for half of the fourth quarter.
And, unfortunately, no. Harden's Brigham Young-like scruff lived to see another day.
Perhaps the only positive of the night was, well, that this road trip ended, although the Jazz did return home at 14-14, falling to .500 for the first time since Jan. 3.
"Each game is very important," Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward said after a scoreless, 16-minute outing. "So I think we just got to learn from this one and try to move on. It's just very frustrating."
The Jazz had some of the same breakdowns as they did in the embarrassing 86-80 loss to the Hornets.
Starting shooting guard Raja Bell pointed out that Utah didn't execute. Players didn't set screens, and they were beaten to many loose balls (outrebounded 49-42).
The Thunder also blocked 13 shots, contributing mightily to Utah's poor shooting night (35.6 percent compared to OKC's 54.5 percent).
"We missed shots," Bell said. "But there were plenty of possessions where I think we just chose not to run (our system) effectively, and you can't win like that."
Especially not against a team that now sports a 22-6 record.
Out of frustration during the game, Bell looked at Watson and told him, "We do dumb (bleep)." That upsets him more than losing.
"I did not think we played the way we needed to play tonight to win," Bell said. "When we don't we'll find ourselves on the short end of the stick.
"And," he added, "when we do at least we give ourself a chance. If a team beats you, a team beats you.
When you don't (play), you saw the score. That's a good team. We can't afford not to do things the right way."
That's a principle that exists without regard to how many nights a team has played in a row.
"I'm not going to blame it on fatigue," Hayward said. "I think it's just not acceptable whatever the reason was. We're professionals, so back-to-back-to-back is our job. We've got to be prepared. We've got to be able to play."
Even knowing his team has lost seven of nine games, Corbin added an optimistic outlook.
"They are a good ballclub," he said of the Thunder. "We are OK and we will be ready to go. We will get ourselves back together."22 comments on this story
If not, the Wizards might ask the NBA to reschedule the Jazz to play at their place this year, too.