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ATLANTA — Al Jefferson sat in his locker, slumped over in despondency and with eyes fixated on the floor in frustration, a few moments after the Utah Jazz's game against the Atlanta Hawks.
Big Al wasn't nearly as exhausted as the Jazz were after last year's quadruple-overtime loss in Philips Arena.
By the looks of it, though, this one hurt worse. It certainly hurt badly, which Jefferson made clear by asking for a few extra minutes to gather his thoughts before being interviewed.
No surprise why.
The Jazz blew a 15-point lead in the second half, suffering a 103-95 defeat to a team that ended its four-game losing streak while ripping the visitors' guts out.
On the bright side, at least this heartbreaker ended in regulation.
"It just (stinks) to let them take it away from us," Jefferson said. "We had them down. We should have just buried them."
Four straight turnovers at the end of the third quarter helped Atlanta quickly trim Utah's 75-60 lead down to a more manageable eight-point deficit heading into the fourth.
Led by former Jazz point guard Devin Harris, the Hawks continued to surge in the fourth. Harris, traded to the Hawks for Marvin Williams last summer, scored a season-high 24 with five assists after recently missing 11 games with a foot injury.
Atlanta (21-14) then dominated down the stretch, closing its comeback win by outscoring Utah 15-3 in the final four minutes.
"Glad to see him back from his injury. I'm glad to see him have a good game," said Jefferson of Harris, whom he played with in Utah for a season and a half. "But it doesn't matter if it was Devin or anybody else, it still (stinks) right now to lose a game that we had control of."
Until that monumental meltdown, that is.
"You can't stop doing what you're doing to get you a 15-point lead," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We got away from it. We thought the game was over. It's a disappointing loss."
Three Jazz players scored 20 or more points, led by Randy Foye's 25-point outburst and double-doubles from Jefferson (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Paul Millsap (20 points, 13 boards).
But there was no solace to be taken from this devastating defeat, which happened to be the fourth game this season in which the Jazz have blown a double-digit lead.
"This is a tough one to swallow," Foye said. "It don't matter (his big game). If we don't win, it don’t matter what I do. I just want to win. That's it."
The loss prevented Utah from winning consecutive games on the road for the first time this season. It also sent the Jazz back to .500 at 19-19, halting their momentum after wins in four of their previous five games.
The sting obviously continued to surge through Jefferson as he looked down, occasionally burying his face in his hands and sullenly looking down, in his postgame interview.
"You don't want to be in a situation down the line fighting for a playoff spot and you think back to this game," Jefferson said. "That's what (stinks) about it."
Backup big man Ivan Johnson gave the Hawks the lead for good at 96-94 on a layup that swirled around the rim before dropping in with 1:28 remaining.
Jamaal Tinsley had a chance to tie it 19 seconds later, making one free throw and then watching as his second one took an Atlanta-approved trip around the rim before falling out.
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