Utah Jazz basketball: Beautiful non-hoops moments were on display during an ugly loss to Memphis
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz struggled again Saturday night, falling 99-86 to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Even while the Jazz suffered only their second home loss of the season, there were some beautiful non-basketball moments at EnergySolutions Arena during a time when heartwarming is needed to soothe the rampant heartbreaking.
Before tipoff, the team held an honorary moment of silence in which thousands of Jazz fans and players from both teams somberly thought of the innocent victims killed Friday morning in the senseless Connecticut elementary school shooting.
Following that, local singer B. Murphy, a former member of The Platters and the Salt Lake Community Choir director, offered a stirring and powerful rendition of the national anthem.
Another highlight came during a first-half break.
Two young boys were blindfolded, thinking they were taking part in a promotional contest. The crowd of 18,183 got louder to help guide the youngsters as they wandered toward their reward.
Unbeknownst to the brothers, their surprise prize was a woman in a military outfit.
It was their mom, Jeanne Izatt, a petty officer in the Navy who's been serving an eight-month tour in Afghanistan.
Connor and Chance hadn't seen her since April.
The three Syracuse residents had an extended and emotional reunion at midcourt — and were quickly joined by other family members — while receiving a standing ovation from touched fans.
None of that helped the Jazz win this basketball game.
But the healing and happiness were welcome additions to hoops on this night.
During his pregame interview, Corbin hinted that he was concerned non-basketball distractions might hinder his players from being up to their best.
It didn't help that the Jazz are only in town for two days after returning from Phoenix and before leaving on their annual pre-Christmas trip, which includes stops in Brooklyn, Indiana, Miami and Orlando.
"There's so much stuff going on in the world. There's just so much stuff going on right now and the holidays are coming up," Corbin said. "It's a lot to have on your mind before you go out. You have a few days to get back before Christmas and you have to take care of your shopping and family things. It can be a setup for us."
Unfortunately for the Jazz, that played out when Saturday's game was decided in the second half — in part due to their uninspired play but also because of the invigorated hustle and effort of the Grizzlies.
"Tough loss, you know, on the home floor," Corbin admitted.
Ultimately, Memphis (15-6), led by Zach Randolph's 25-point, 16-rebound effort, showed it was more desperate to end its three-game losing streak than the Jazz (13-12) were to get back to their winning ways.
That was especially true in a flat-out ugly third quarter when the aggressive and physical Grizzlies scored 28 points while holding the more timid Jazz to a measly 10 points, their worst quarter of the season.
"They're a physical team," Jazz forward Paul Millsap said. "They get down and dirty. They pushed us out past the 3-point line. We couldn't get into our sets, couldn't really run anything. Everything was really stagnate."
Utah missed 17 of 20 shots in that oddly awful stretch, when Memphis' defense clamped down on Al Jefferson, who had 14 of his team-high 21 points in the first half, and blocked Utah's passing and cutting lanes with an active and stifling defensive push.
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