Utah Jazz: Better game but same losing result for Jazz against Blazers
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — If somebody has a Moral Victory Handbook, please let us know if 11-point losses can be counted in that category.
Be sure to look under the part where the vastly outmatched losing team was soundly thumped by the same opponent four days earlier by 32 points, the rematch was sorta, kinda close in the final minutes, the defeated squad was missing two starters and, of course, the winner hit a really lucky shot to clinch it.
Not finding it?
This much we do know: The 105-94 outcome of Monday night's game against the victorious Portland Trail Blazers notched another mark in the loss column for the Utah Jazz.
"It was a better effort for the most part," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said.
In the end, it counts the same as Friday's 130-98 loss and the other 17 chapters Utah has already written in the Demoralizing Defeat Handbook to begin the 2013-14 campaign.
Remember the 1996-97 Jazz team that made it to the franchise's first NBA Finals when John Stockton hit his famous 3-point shot, simultaneously eliciting a jumping party at midcourt, eliminating Houston and making Bill Walton utter his infamous "Uh, oh" line on TV?
Of course you do.
That Jazz team had 18 losses throughout six months of its entire regular season.
This Jazz team already has 19 losses only six weeks into the season.
Perhaps it's not relevant pointing out that it took a 64-win Jazz squad until April 13 to lose 18 games and this four-win iteration matched that on Dec. 7 and added another L two nights later.
But it is an interesting comparison when considering how the biggest positive reaction from Monday night's announced crowd of 17,555 came when it was officially announced that Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan will have his banner-raising ceremony on Jan. 31.
Sloan received a standing ovation as a video tribute played on the large video screens. The team's senior basketball adviser, sitting about 13 rows behind the Jazz bench, then drew a huge roar from the old faithful when he stood up and thanked the cheering spectators with a wave.
That same crowd suffered through a third quarter in which the Jazz only scored 19 points and fell behind the Blazers by 15 points.
"That third quarter they had an 8-2 run and an 8-0 run that kind of spaced the game out a little bit," Corbin said. "Especially against a good ballclub, we can’t allow them to get that many runs. It puts us in a hole. Against a good team, it's difficult to come back."
The Jazz failed to do that — or show signs of life — Friday while falling into a 42-point hole in Rip City.
But in this one, Utah pepped up in the fourth quarter and made things interesting. The Jazz used an 11-4 run to get out of a double-digit deficit, and then managed to trim the Blazers' lead down even more after a Jeremy Evans dunk and two Gordon Hayward free throws.
Despite playing against the Western Conference's best team without injured starters Derrick Favors (back) and Marvin Williams (heel), the Jazz were within five points with 1 1/2 minutes remaining.
To that point, Utah had held the red-hot Blazers to only four 3-pointers after they'd hit an insane 17 of 23 from deep range a few nights earlier.
With 1:03 remaining, Nicolas Batum delivered a sucker punch to the Jazz and their fans when he tossed up a 3-point try from 29 feet out in an attempt to beat the expiring shot clock.
Batum's 3-pointer put Portland up 100-92.
"Ah, It sucked. He was laughing about it. He didn’t think it was going in," Jazz small forward Richard Jefferson said. "I switched out on to LaMarcus (Aldridge), he lost it, just threw it out. You don’t need me to describe it. You could listen to the entire arena."
After a group moan, you could have heard a pin drop from the Mormon Tabernacle's podium.
"That’s what happens when you’re battling back, when you’re struggling," Jefferson said. "That was a shot that kind of put it out of reach for us."
Former Weber State star Damian Lillard then put the Jazz out of their misery with another trey 24 seconds later — after an offensive rebound by Batum.
Aldridge, named the Western Conference player of the week earlier in the day, finished with a game-high 24 points. Lillard scored 18 and ex-Jazzman Wesley Matthews had 16 points as the Blazers improved to a shockingly great 18-4.
The Jazz, meanwhile, fell to 4-19 despite a 20-point bench effort from shooting guard Alec Burks and a strong 19-point night from center Enes Kanter.
Rookie point guard Trey Burke had a much better outing than his limited seven-point showing Friday night, finishing with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists.
But the Jazz dropped their fourth in a row as they enter a brutal portion of the schedule, which includes seven of their next eight games on the road before Christmas Eve.
"You play good D for like 22, 23 seconds, and they hit crazy shots," Kanter lamented. "It's tough, you know. That's basketball. You can't think about it. We just need to learn how to close the games."
If it helps, the Jazz did get some credit from the other locker room.
"It was kind of the game I expected," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "We knew that Utah would come out and give us a good test because they play well at home."
The Jazz used to, at least. They're only 3-9 at ESA this season.
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