SALT LAKE CITY — Disappointment is threatening to cast a long, dark shadow on what has been a surprisingly solid season. Their frustration level is nearing an all-time high, and desperation is lurking right around the corner.
So, sitting in 10th place in the Western Conference playoff chase, with just 11 games remaining in the regular season, what can the Utah Jazz possibly do from here on out to give themselves the best chance of finishing strongly and, hopefully, grabbing a playoff spot?
Three things seem to stand out: 1. Look ahead to the next game, and don't look back at the last one; 2. Continue to play hard and try to do what you do best; 3. Believe in yourselves and don't ever give up.
That seemed to be the common theme Thursday morning as the Jazz reflected on Wednesday night's frustrating 107-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns. With the disheartening defeat, the Jazz now find themselves two games behind Houston and Denver — currently tied for seventh place in the West — with Phoenix now ninth, a game ahead of Utah.
"It's a tough loss and everybody feels it," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We can't get that one back, but we have 11 games left and we still have an opportunity to get in the playoffs. We have to learn our lessons and move forward."
Corbin is calling for his guys to play tougher defensively and to play with a sense of urgency without panicking.
"We've got to take the (defensive) assignments personal, you and your man, and then team defense after that," he said. "It's that time of year when everything has to be turned up a notch. ... Each play means a lot and you can't take a play off.
"We've got to pick ourselves up and continue to fight and get our edge back here," Corbin said of his team's last two home-court losses, which have come by a combined three points. "We've still got a chance. We've got to get hot and we've got to win some games, but we've got to take care of our business. We can't afford to feel sorry for ourselves ... we're still in it."
NO TIME TO PANIC: With just 11 games left in the regular season, some people might start looking for a panic button to push.
But veteran swingman C.J. Miles says the Jazz just need to stay focused, do what they do best and take their frustrations out on their upcoming opponents.
"We still have 11 games left and we're only a game and a half out," he said, "so that's plenty of time and plenty of games to make up for it and we've got to be able to stay the course.
"We've got to find a way to play basketball the way we know how to play basketball. ... We have to believe in what we do. We've been able to beat really good teams and have wins doing what we do ... because we've proven that what we do works.
"We don't have a choice. We know we need to win the next one, especially because we let a couple slip, so there's no time. We've got to keep pushing, pushing and pushing; guys have got to keep playing hard to reach that goal," Miles said. "We need to take it out on the next opponent, especially when you feel like someone stole one from you. All you can do is grind it out and take it out on the next team."
THE BEAUTY OF IT ALL: Power forward Paul Millsap said that one good thing about the NBA's condensed schedule this season is that it does not allow players to dwell on their last defeat.
"It's frustrating," he said, "but we've got another game tomorrow, and that's the beauty of this season — you don't have too much time to sit down and really concentrate on the losses. You've got to continue to move forward.
"Just do what you can on the court, take all your anger and frustration out on Golden State. We had a tough loss (Wednesday) night, so try to take it out on them."
PLAYING FORWARD: Starting center Al Jefferson agreed that the key to the team's fortunes from here on out will be — as longtime Jazz coach Jerry Sloan always admonished his teams — to play forward, not backward, and to never stop trying.
"You can't be worrying about the last game when you've got another one tomorrow," he said. "We've just got to focus on Golden State; every game that we play is very important. You can't win the games that are ahead of you if you're worrying about the games behind you. ... We've got to be ready to fight another day.
"We've just got to keep fighting 'til the end."
MAKING THEIR POINT: With Devin Harris nursing an injured ankle, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley shared the point guard duties in Wednesday's game. They did a decent job, combining for seven points, 10 assists and just two turnovers, and Watson had two steals and two blocked shots, too.
"They played hard," Corbin said. "It was an up-tempo game with (Suns' veteran point guard) Steve Nash and a lot of pick-and-rolls with the ball in his hands. The way he controls the game, it's difficult. I thought they did a good job for us, we just didn't get the timely stops when we needed 'em."
Harris was scheduled to practice with the team Thursday before deciding whether he'll be able to play in Friday's home game against Golden State.
"I'll practice and see how it feels," Harris said, "and then obviously we'll make a decision."
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