MEMPHIS, Tenn. — While recently discussing the Utah Jazz's abundance of early away games, Tyrone Corbin acknowledged the team has no choice but to hit the road and play.
"Unless," he joked, "you can change it."
It isn't ideal to open with eight of 11 games on the road — or 12 of 18, 18 of 29 and 24 of 39, regardless of how you frame the travel-heavy itinerary.
A schedule change won't be happening. The Jazz might balk at a beat-writer-suggested 25-game winter series in Miami anyway.
Utah does have some things within its power to tweak, which in turn could make for more happy travels, beginning with tonight's stop in Memphis.
"It's early. It's only the third game of the season, (but) you learn lessons and I thought we learned a lesson (Saturday) night," Corbin said. "We didn't show it in the first quarter or first half, and then we come in the third and we showed what we can do if we focus on what we need to do and we come out and work at it."
Like their travel plans, the Jazz have been all over the map to begin the 2012-13 season.
They were horrible and strong against Dallas. They mostly looked awful against New Orleans but had a chance to win. They were their usual selves against San Antonio, falling behind big only to fight back but ultimately falter.
From Al Jefferson to Jamaal Tinsley, Utah has been anything but consistent while beginning 1-2.
"We just have to keep plugging and learning lessons," Corbin said. "But we can't fall in love with learning lessons. We've got to learn them and move forward."
The Jazz thought Friday's 88-86 loss to the Hornets would be a wake-up call of sorts, and they're really hoping stark contrasts shown in Saturday's 110-100 setback to the Spurs will sink in.
Play well and together, and they're capable of putting up third quarters like they did against Dallas (37-13) and San Antonio (35-17). Allow the defense to push them out of executing the offense and fall asleep at the defensive wheel, and they're capable of losing to New Orleans and allowing Dallas to score 63 first-half points or watching the Spurs shoot a ridiculously efficient 74 percent in one half.
"I like our fight we showed that if we come out then we can compete against anybody on their floor, and that third quarter showed that," Corbin said. "We focused on what we needed to do. We were aggressive in everything we do."
The Jazz made hard cuts, shared the ball, tightened up the defense and followed the leadership of Mo Williams to overcome a 19-point deficit and go on a 13-0 run.
San Antonio eventually prevailed (of course), but it could be a springboard moment for the Jazz.
"We have to learn from that," Corbin said. "That's how we have to play for 48 minutes and not in spurts."
Jazz forward Paul Millsap put the onus on the starting unit to begin games stronger. Utah has regressed offensively in the first quarter in its first three games, having scored 25 points in the opening period against Dallas but only 19 in New Orleans and a paltry 17 in San Antonio.
"We've got to be ready to come out right from jump ball," Corbin said. "Especially on the road."
The score after the first quarter so far: Opponents 73, Jazz 61.
"It's something we've got to remember," Millsap said. "We've got to do a better job at getting ourselves going early, helping each other get going. If we can do that, we'll be fine."
Corbin said he hasn't solidified his rotations, but it's obvious he's mostly relying on his starters along with Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Randy Foye, Jamaal Tinsley and occasionally DeMarre Carroll. Though Foye is a backup, the shooting guard has played big minutes in the fourth, either in place of Hayward or Marvin Williams.
Corbin even pulled the handy Big Three lineup card out of his pocket in Saturday's loss, inserting Millsap in at small forward to keep defensive stalwart Favors on the floor.
So far, NBA slam dunk champion Jeremy Evans, second-year guard Alec Burks and rookie Kevin Murphy have not played any minutes other than mop-up time.
That won't necessarily remain that way, Corbin has repeated several times the past week.
The Jazz are confident their slow start(s) won't keep up either.
"We don't know when it's going to click, but it's going to click one day, sooner rather than later," team captain Mo Williams said. "We're going to put it all together. We're still getting rotations down. It was Paul's first time playing at the three. We're still figuring things out."5 comments on this story
A 1-2 record isn't something to panic about, of course. But with the amount of road games they have in the near future, the last thing they want to do is have a home-friendly schedule in the second half of a lottery-bound season.
Corbin admitted back-to-back road losses puts a bit more pressure on the team heading into a tough showdown with the Grizzlies.
"It does. We need a win and we need a win on the road," Corbin said. "Memphis is a good team on their home floor, but we're certainly capable of beating them there. We're going to come out and play hard against them and see where it falls."
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