SALT LAKE CITY — When the Utah Jazz traveled to Oklahoma City earlier this week, Wednesday night's woeful performance was certainly not what they had in mind.
The Thunder completely shut down Utah's inside game, forcing the Jazz to hoist up a ton of low-percentage outside shots that continually clanged off the rim and the backboard.
The end result was a 110-87 whipping that doesn't begin to say how badly the Jazz were dominated in their latest rout on the road, where Utah's record slipped to a less-than-stellar 10-23 this season.
But all is not lost.
Sure, Wednesday's performance was ugly in the worst way, but it's just one lousy loss. Now, the key for the Jazz is to try and learn from it, put it behind them and move on.
That's the only way they're going to stay in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, which currently finds Utah on the outside looking in — sitting ninth at 33-32, a half-game behind the eighth-place Los Angeles Lakers (34-32) but dead-even in the all-important loss column.
And with Lakers star Kobe Bryant going down with a severe ankle injury on Wednesday night, it's possible the Jazz could still keep their heads above water with 17 games to go in the NBA's regular season.
But they've got to learn from their mistakes and vow not to make them again.
"We have to pick each other up as a team," said Utah third-year shooting guard Gordon Hayward, who had a team-high 20 points in Wednesday's loss. "This is a time where we've got to really pull it together so that when you're knocked down, we can get back up.
"We can't really focus on these (bad) games. We're still in this race, we're still very much so in this race. We have a big road trip coming up, and this is when we have to pull each other up as a team and give ourselves confidence. We know we have the talent and we know we can do it; we just have to step up to the plate and do it."
The Jazz have a couple of days to lick their wounds from Wednesday's beating before they take on the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night, followed by another home game against the New York Knicks — who thrashed Utah a week ago in the Big Apple — on Monday.
Then comes the big road trip Hayward mentioned, with games at Houston, San Antonio and Dallas — Texas' version of the Bermuda Triangle — on March 20, 22 and 24, respectively.
That trip looms as critical in Utah's quest to catch the Lakers, and possibly the Rockets as well, for the seventh or eighth spot in the West.
Veteran point guard Earl Watson, who bounced in off the bench to turn in an admirable 9-point, 6-assist effort in Wednesday's loss, waxed philosophical in the Jazz locker room after the game.
"I think anything is possible," he said. "It's like a mentality. It starts with the mentality and then it translates to the physical. So for us, the mentality has to be all of our obstacles that we are overcoming and facing, we have to bottle it up and use it as inspiration and motivation to get better and to close out strong.
"Sometimes people say to just play hard, but playing hard isn't enough in this league. You've got to will yourself to victory and be determined to take it."
At this point of the season, and with what lies in front of them, the Jazz would be wise to listen to Watson's words and heed his advice.
Or this team's summer vacation is gonna start sooner than usual.
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