SALT LAKE CITY — EnergySolutions Arena was full of Jr. Jazz basketball players Wednesday night as the organization commemorated the 30th anniversary of the youth hoops program.
The way the Sr. Jazz players played, it might have been tempting for Utah's coaching staff to ask the youngsters to suit up.
They might need to anyway if the highly paid Jazz players keep succumbing to injuries as they have been.
Utah — playing without injured Paul Millsap and Mo Williams and watching Al Jefferson and DeMarre Carroll get hurt — certainly was missing some of the exuberant energy the kids would've shown on what Gov. Gary Herbert officially declared to be Jr. Jazz Day in the Beehive State.
For the second game in a row, Utah fell at home to an Eastern Conference playoff team, but the Jazz weren't anywhere near forcing overtime in this 102-91 blowout loss to the Atlanta Hawks like they did before stumbling against Boston on Monday.
Despite losing their third straight, the Jazz (31-27) lucked out a bit as Houston (31-28) remained a half-game behind them in the Western Conference playoff standings after losing to Milwaukee.
"It's very frustrating," Jazz sixth man Gordon Hayward said. "Especially when we had an opportunity to kind of move up in the West a little bit and take care of this home court that we usually do a good job of defending, but for whatever reason, these past two games we just haven't."
"I'm concerned about every loss," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We've got a game here Friday. We'll look at this and see what changes we can make, what we have to improve on and get ready for Charlotte."
The injury-plagued Jazz aren't sure just who they'll have available for that game.
Millsap missed only the 14th game in his seven-year career after spraining his left ankle Monday against the Celtics. Late in Wednesday's game, Jefferson sprained his left ankle after rolling it on Derrick Favors' foot.
Both Millsap and Jefferson are considered day-to-day.
Forward DeMarre Carroll returned to action and sparked a 10-2 run in the fourth quarter after tweaking his left knee. The Jazz called it tendinitis, but Carroll said it might've been hyperextended. He will undergo an MRI today.
"I'm not going to stress too much about it," he said. "I pray hopefully it's good."
The Jazz again fell apart in the third quarter, as they've done in their last two losses. Against the Hawks, they didn't score for the first four-and-a-half minutes of the second half, only scored 18 points in that period and fell behind by as many as 20.
As far as the Jazz were concerned, the wrong Al had a big game.
Atlanta center Al Horford scored a career-high 34 points with 15 rebounds and five blocked shots. He went berserk on the Jazz in the fourth quarter, when he poured in 14 points.
Horford nearly single-handedly squelched the Jazz's last serious run by blocking a shot and then going the other way for a dunk. Utah, which was on a 10-2 run at the time, could've gotten to within six points, but Horford stretched the Hawks' lead to a more comfortable 10 points.
Incidentally, it was Jefferson's shot that Horford swatted on a night the Atlanta big overshadowed Big Al, who had a strong showing of 26 points and 11 rebounds.
Favors, starting for Millsap at power forward, also had a nice night with 17 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Randy Foye and Hayward each added 11 points, but those four — Jefferson, Favors and the two guards — were the only Jazz players to hit double figures on a night the team only shot 44.6 percent.
"We got ourselves down and it's just too hard to fight our way back," Hayward said. "You can't dig yourself that big of a hole."
Or play lethargically, which was evident in the fact the Jazz only had seven fast-break points.
"Overall, we needed to get our energy up," Favors said.
Carroll echoed Favors, saying, "They played harder than us."
That's frustrating for the guy who prides himself in playing a frenetic style of "Junkyard Dog" basketball.
"Everybody got to look at each other in the mirror. It's a pride thing," Carroll said. "Every night we've got to come out and say we're going to play hard no matter what. I don't know if it was because of the loss to Boston or what. We can't dwell on losses. We've got 24 games left and we're in the playoffs. We're still in seventh place. We've just got to continue to keep winning."17 comments on this story
Josh Smith also had a big night with 24 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in leading the Hawks to their fourth consecutive win over Utah.
JAZZ NOTES: Foye hit two 3-pointers to catch up with ex-Jazz big man Mehmet Okur for the franchise's single-season record of 129 treys. Okur established that mark in 2006-07. Foye surpassed his personal season-best of 127, which he had last year with the Clippers. Three former Jazz players saw action for Atlanta — Devin Harris (12 points), Kyle Korver (four points) and DeShawn Stevenson (two points). The Jazz have used 10 different starting lineups. Wednesday's starters included Earl Watson for the second straight game along with Foye, Marvin Williams, Favors and Jefferson.