CHICAGO — Milwaukee. Cleveland. Chicago.
The Tour de Tough Luck continues for the Utah Jazz.
For the third time in their jaunt through the Midwest, the Jazz found a new way to blow a late lead and fell apart when it mattered most.
Bulls guard Marco Belinelli joined the ever-growing ranks of Eastern Conference players to rip the Jazz's hearts out in Chicago's 89-88 victory over Utah on Friday night.
The sharpshooter hit a 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds remaining — after an offensive rebound bounced and bounced and finally landed in Joakim Noah's hands — and then Gordon Hayward missed an open mid-range jumper in the final seconds that could've won it for Utah.
For those counting at home — and in Los Angeles — that's three straight losses for the Jazz and 6 of 7 overall.
Utah fell to 32-30 and stumbled another step down the stairway that leads to the lottery.
"This is a great group of guys with character," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "Yes, we're all disappointed with this loss and the others on the road. However, we will continue to work to get the wins. It's frustration, but a part of the journey that we're on."
The Jazz staff might consider traveling with a "Welcome to New Heartbreak City" sign on road trips.
By the way, this particular swing (slide?) mercifully ends tonight at Madison Square Garden.
New York Knicks fans might show up just to see how the Jazz blow it this time.
Well, not if a team that keeps talking a stay-together game and maintains a resolved attitude can help it.
"Very tough. We could very easily be 3-0 and instead we are 0-3," Hayward said. "You have to find ways to win. We have to find a way to pick ourselves up. We have another tough one (tonight). We have to figure things out and find a way to win the game at the end."
On Monday, the Jazz gave up a late 3-pointer in regulation to Brandon Jennings before falling in overtime in Milwaukee.
On Wednesday, the Cavaliers outscored Utah 12-1 down the stretch and the Jazz watched a potential game-winning Mo Williams layup roll off the rim with five seconds remaining.
On Friday, Utah rallied out of a nine-point deficit to take an 88-86 lead with 51.6 seconds left when Jefferson hit a jumper. But in the final 21 seconds, everything went the Bulls' way.
First, Jefferson missed a 19-footer that would've given the Jazz a four-point lead with 20.8 seconds remaining.
Then, Belinelli's tying two-point attempt was off the mark with 13.9 seconds left, but the ball was passed around like a beach ball in a crowd. Noah eventually snagged it, and then Jimmy Butler found a wide-open Belinelli in the corner.
Catch. Release. Swish.
Another Jazz missed opportunity.
What are the antonyms for clutch or lucky?
"You look at that last play," Jefferson said. "I got my hands on the ball three, four times. Everybody touched the ball four, five times, but it still wind up in their (hands) and to the corner for a lucky shot."
Big Al quickly corrected himself and continued.
"I ain't going to say a lucky shot, a tough shot," he said. "They didn't draw that up. That was just the ball bouncing their way."
And, as keeps happening, the other way for the Jazz.
It might've hurt even worse considering Carlos Boozer had yet another big game against his former team, scoring 22 points (like Belinelli) and grabbing 10 rebounds as the Bulls won despite dealing with their own massive injury issues.
While Utah had its full squad together for the first time since December, the 35-27 Bulls, who had lost two straight, played without Derrick Rose (knee), Taj Gibson (knee), Kirk Hinrich (foot) and Rip Hamilton (back).
If there was a win ripe for the taking in Chicago, it was this one.
"I don't know why we're losing, but I like the way we're playing. We're playing hard and that's the only thing we can ask for," Jefferson said. "Things just aren't bouncing our way."
Corbin made several switches in this game in hopes of giving the Jazz a boost. DeMarre Carroll started again, but Marvin Williams was playing so well that Corbin put him in to begin the third quarter.
Jamaal Tinsley, who hadn't played in a week, also came off the bench to spell Mo Williams at point guard. He finished with five points and five assists.
Defensively, the Jazz had a stellar second half, holding Chicago to just 34 points — 17 in each of the third and fourth quarters.
All that — and the continued big bench play from Favors and Enes Kanter (10 points) — helped Utah turn a nine-point halftime deficit into an 81-76 fourth-quarter lead.
Boozer hit a jumper and Belinelli hit one of his three treys to quickly put Chicago ahead again with five minutes to go, and teams were neck and neck until Hayward's shot was off at the end.13 comments on this story
"I was trying to make the play and came up a little short," Hayward said. "I had a jump shot from 15 feet and just missed it."
NOTES: The Bulls won despite shooting 37 percent from the field (30 for 81) and allowing the Jazz to shoot 45.7 percent (37 for 81). Chicago has beaten Utah five times in a row, which is the longest winning streak the Bulls have ever had in the series history. Carroll (four points) didn't play in the second half after starting. Corbin said his three fouls at halftime played a factor. ... Mo Williams struggled in his second game back from a 32-game absence, shooting 1 for 7 for two points and three assists.