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Utah Jazz: Yet another bad East team feasts on the Jazz

Published: Sunday, Jan. 23 2011 12:46 a.m. MST

Utah Jazz's Paul Millsap, left  and Philadelphia 76ers' Elton Brand (42) chase a loose ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, in Philadelphia.  (Associated Press) Utah Jazz's Paul Millsap, left and Philadelphia 76ers' Elton Brand (42) chase a loose ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, in Philadelphia. (Associated Press)

PHILADELPHIA — The Utah Jazz changed their lineup.

They didn't, however, change their results.

Finishing off a miserable East Coast road trip, stumble and painful fall, the Jazz dropped yet another seemingly winnable game to another sub-.500 team Saturday night.

The latest defeat — in a four-game string of debacles that included slip-ups in Washington and New Jersey — was a 96-85 pounding by the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.

With four losses in a row, the Jazz slumped into losing-streak territory they hadn't slummed in since January 2009.

"Disappointing. Horrible. We just played bad as a whole as a group," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said, describing the 0-4 journey in which the team played as frigidly as the freezing-cold weather they traveled through.

Jazz's Al Jefferson reacts to being called for a foul against the 76ers Saturday night. in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, in Philadelphia.  (Associated Press) Jazz's Al Jefferson reacts to being called for a foul against the 76ers Saturday night. in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, in Philadelphia. (Associated Press)

"I played bad. One through 13, we didn't have a good trip," D-Will added. "We're looking for ourselves out there and we just can't find anything."

Except losses.

The Jazz seemed to have found some renewed energy source after coach Jerry Sloan inserted Gordon Hayward into the starting lineup in place of small forward Andrei Kirilenko, hoping for a positive change after three previous losses.

But after a decent start Saturday, the Jazz ended this trip by playing the same way they'd played at the beginning and in the middle of the week-long trek: inconsistent, uninspired and out of sync.

"It's frustrating because we can't figure out how to get it going. It just looks bad. It feels bad," Williams said. "It's like you just can't find ways to get going."

And, the All-Star pointed out, that is happening in every aspect of the Jazz's game.

Utah Jazz's Al Jefferson (25) defends as Philadelphia 76ers' Elton Brand (42) shoots in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, in Philadelphia.  (Associated Press) Utah Jazz's Al Jefferson (25) defends as Philadelphia 76ers' Elton Brand (42) shoots in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, in Philadelphia. (Associated Press)

On Saturday, Utah only shot 42.0 percent, missing a bundle of inside shots and hitting just 4-of-16 from long range. Utah also had 17 turnovers and sent Philly to the line for 31 foul shots (the Sixers made 24) compared to its 13-for-17 night from the free-throw line.

The Jazz were so off they couldn't even take advantage of the Sixers' 40.7 percent shooting.

"There's no continuity, no chemistry, no spacing," Williams said. "There's no help on the defensive end. We're not trusting each other on the other end. Guys are open and we're not getting them the ball on time. We're missing screens."

Sloan was disappointed the Jazz were outscored in all four quarters — scoring just 22 in three quarters and a paltry 19 in the second — for the second consecutive night.

And this, mind you, was against a Philly team that had lost two in a row and now only sports an 18-25 record.

Utah Jazz's Gordon Hayward (20) defends as Philadelphia 76ers' Jrue Holiday shoots in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, in Philadelphia.  (Associated Press) Utah Jazz's Gordon Hayward (20) defends as Philadelphia 76ers' Jrue Holiday shoots in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, in Philadelphia. (Associated Press)

"I think we feel sorry for ourself a little bit," Sloan said.

What makes this losing streak particularly painful is the competition they're losing against — not counting Boston, of course.

It's so bad for the Jazz that Raja Bell talked about hitting rock bottom only two losses after scoffing at that notion — and apparently for good reason, considering ensuing setbacks.

"When it's bad, it's really bad. Nothing goes your way," Bell said. "And then you hit rock bottom, and when you do, you're able to start to climb back to the top. That's the only thing that you can do now, you keep fighting."

Added Williams: "We're close to bottoming out when you lose to the Wizards and Nets and Philly in three out of four games. It's not a good trip."

Don't look now, but the road journey continues for the Jazz on Tuesday in Los Angeles against the Lakers. And they follow that with a Wednesday night home game against San Antonio.

(Double gulp.)

"We're struggling," Sloan admitted. "We just have to see what we're made out of and see how we fight back out of it, or we look for other excuses somewhere else."

What's weird about this one — well, one of many weird things, actually — is the Jazz's big three had strong outings from a statistical standpoint.

Williams bounced back from his five-point game in Beantown with 20 points and 14 assists. Al Jefferson improved his aim considerably — going 8-for-19 from the field after a rough 1-for-11 showing — en route to 19 points and 13 rebounds.

And Paul Millsap had his best performance in a while with 18 points and 12 boards.

But, aside from Kirilenko's 12 points off the bench, the Jazz got little additional help. Hayward, Bell, C.J. Miles, Mehmet Okur and Earl Watson (scoreless) combined to score 16 points.

They were all outdone by one Sixer sub: Lou Williams, who had an energetic 20 points.

Additionally, Andre Iguodala scored 22 points on 8-for-10 shooting and Elton Brand had 19 points to help the Sixers snap a six-game losing streak against the Jazz.

"They just played a smarter game than we did," Sloan added.

The starting five wasn't the only thing Sloan changed. He also limited the number of players who saw action. Franciso Elson (left quad tendinitis) didn't dress, but Ronnie Price, Kyrylo Fesenko and Jeremy Evans didn't play.

That move came a night after Sloan said it's ideal to have an eight-man rotation.

"I thought I would tighten it up a little bit more and see if we could come out of it, and have a little bit more life," the Hall of Fame coach said. "But we didn't have a lot of energy. Our energy level has been down this whole trip."

Four opponents — including three bad ones — thank them for that.

GAME NOTES: This was the first game Price has not played in all season. Williams and Jefferson are now the only Jazz players to see action in all 44 games. ... This was only the third time all season the Jazz lost despite outshooting their opponent. ... This was Utah's 11th double-digit loss.

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