Utah Jazz: 'Proud' team suffers stinging loss to end up-and-down season
Reflective of the season, the finale got away from the Jazz after the midway point. The team that suffered through a 3-12 stretch three-fourths of the way through the year had a similar unraveling in the third quarter Wednesday.
Overall, the Jazz had too many missed layups, too many missed free throws, too many misguided shots. A two-point game at halftime turned into a 65-51 Memphis lead after three quarters.
Bringing an end to a season of missed opportunities, this finale slipped away with far too many botched chances and bobbled efforts.
The Jazz shot 32 percent from the field. They missed 8 of 11 3-pointers and only hit 17 of 26 free throws. Jefferson had a double-double of 22 points and 16 rebounds, but he was the only Utah player to hit double figures.
But the biggest problem Wednesday wasn't the Jazz's offensive ineptitude. It was the fact Utah put itself in a position that it needed to win a road game in Memphis to have an outside shot at a playoff spot.
On Feb. 19, the Jazz were seven games above .500 and had a 5 1/2-game lead over the Lakers.
Utah, which dealt with extended player absences of Williams (32 games for thumb) and Hayward (10 for shoulder), had all sorts of problems during a stretch in February and March when it lost 12 of 15 games.
The Jazz, aside from their recent three-game road winning streak, were miserably inept away from home all season, winning just 13 times outside of the 801 area code.
Even so, Corbin often complimented his club for its resiliency, which it showed while roaring back into playoff contention the past few weeks.
"When I look back at this season, I'm going to look at the uniqueness of this team where we had a lot of free agents and we had a lot of guys come together for the better," Williams said. "We could have went left easy."
Utah even showed a tinge of that tenacity against the Grizzlies. Late in the third quarter, when things were in the midst of unraveling and the Jazz were on their way to a 20-point deficit, Corbin took a timeout.
Players went to the bench with a double-digit deficit and a look of defeat on their faces.
Minutes later, Jefferson told reporters at the scorer's table, "It ain't over until it's over." The Jazz clawed back to within 10 points and had a chance to trim that to seven with four minutes remaining, but a Randy Foye 3-point attempt clanged off the rim.
With just under three minutes to go, a monster dunk by Memphis' Zach Randolph (25 points, 19 rebounds) pounded the Jazz's hopes into submission.
Though the postgame locker room was somber, Jefferson said the reality of the situation would likely settle in while the team flew home from Tennessee.
It will be even more painfully real when the playoffs start Saturday, and the Jazz aren't included.
Finishing strong is nice and all.
Playing well enough all season to make the playoffs is a whole 'nother thing.
"I don't think it really matters how you finish, how you start," Millsap said. "We're not in the playoffs. It's as simple as that."
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