Utah Jazz: Team holds onto hope while slipping into lottery land

Published: Monday, March 11 2013 12:37 a.m. MDT

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, right, passes the balls past the Utah Jazz defense of Marvin Williams (2), Derrick Favors, center, and Enes Kanter (0) as teammate Nazr Mohammed watches during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 8, 2013, in Chicago. The Bulls won 89-88.

Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Things certainly aren't looking good for the Utah Jazz right now.

Because of bad bounces, even worse clutch play and one sour Big Apple bite, the Jazz find themselves on the fast track to lottery land.

While the Jazz (32-31) had the day off Sunday after a woeful 0-4 Eastern Conference road trip, the Lakers (33-31) took a half-game lead for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference with their win over the Bulls.

Utah has 19 games left, beginning at home tonight against Detroit, to sort this mess out or the franchise will miss the playoffs for the second time in three years.

"We're in the eighth spot right now. We're trying to hold onto it and move up," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said moments after Saturday's embarrassing 113-84 blowout loss to the New York Knicks.

"That's the message for us right now," Corbin added. "Look, if we feel sorry for ourselves and we hand our way out of the playoffs, it's going to happen pretty easily.

"We've got to fight and claw and dig our way out and maybe we can move up. But if we don’t do the things we need to do to continue to compete, then we're in trouble."

Having lost four straight and seven of eight, Jazz players were trying to push aside feelings of frustration and humiliation to hold onto their attitude of resiliency in Saturday's locker room.

"We are still capable," Jazz big man Derrick Favors said. "It's not too late." Favors is right. The Jazz actually still hold their destiny in their own hands — as they like to say — so if they win out they'd make the playoffs thanks to holding the tiebreaker with the Lakers.

A 19-0 finish isn't going to happen, of course — unless new D-League signee Travis Leslie is one heck of a lucky charm.

But the Jazz remain convinced that they have enough talent and determination on their roster to gut this out.

"We've got to be able to somehow bring it together, stay together, for sure. We can't start pointing fingers," Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward said. "We still have got a season left, and I still definitely believe. We've got to find a way to get the job done."

Center Al Jefferson said it's simple.

"We need to win games, basically," he said. "We've got to win."

Sure thing. But how do they make that happen again?

"I can't say, man," he said. "We've just got to stay together and keep playing hard, that's all I can say."

Though he was disappointed in how the Knicks "just kicked our butt," Big Al talked about how many games still remain on the schedule.

"We've just got to stay together and try to finish it out," he said. "We've still got a chance. We ain't out of it."

If it's not obvious yet, that was the prevailing theme Saturday.

"We still have a lot of good basketball left in us," Corbin added. "We've got to pick ourselves up. We can't feel sorry for ourselves."

Corbin admitted to being surprised that the Jazz didn't show much fight after the middle of the second quarter Saturday. But that doesn't change how he feels going forward.

"I trust my guys. I believe in them," Corbin said. "I know they have the fight in them."

It didn't help that the Jazz had to readjust to being shorthanded Saturday.

Starting power forward Paul Millsap didn't play because of inflammation in his right knee, the third game he's missed in the past two weeks because of injuries. Friday was the first time the Jazz had been at full strength since December.

Millsap was re-evaluated on Sunday, and he remains day-to-day after an MRI revealed bruising of his right patella and quadriceps tendon.

"Before (Saturday), we had everybody back in the fold, so we're trying to find where we go from here with the group," Corbin said. "Mo's been out for a long time, so his rhythm is going to take a little bit for him to get back, and we're trying to integrate him back in.

"Al was out for couple of games, Paul goes down," the coach said. "We're back into scramble mode to figure out what's going to be best for us. We'll continue to work. We need everybody ready to go."

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