SALT LAKE CITY — By all accounts, the Utah Jazz should have gotten a different shot than the one they ended up with at the conclusion of their heartbreaking loss against the Denver Nuggets.
Not that it changes anything now, but video and photographic evidence showed that Denver power forward Kenyon Martin touched the basketball while standing out of bounds after the Jazz's Andrei Kirilenko stole it from him on an inbounds pass with 1.2 seconds remaining.
K-Mart admitted he got away with touching the ball, which caused Kirilenko to fumble it a bit as he tried unsuccessfully to tie it up and force overtime in what ended up being a 103-101 Nuggets' victory.
Even the NBA conceded that point.
"If Martin touched the ball, the play should have been ruled dead right there with Utah inbounding," Tim Frank, the NBA's senior vice president of basketball communications, told the Deseret News on Friday. "On video replay, it appears he did touch the ball."
Good luck trying to get Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin to blast the refs for missing a call that happened in the blink of an eye without assistance of slow-motion replays.
After being asked to comment about the strange sequence — which followed Devin Harris' 3-pointer that put Utah within a bucket of Denver — Corbin was further pressed about the issue by a TV personality who brought a photo with the out-of-bounds Martin's hand on the ball as Kirilenko moved to the hoop.
The reporter failed to get Corbin to say something inflammatory after asking if he felt "robbed."
Wisely avoiding a potential fine by the NBA, the new Jazz coach safely responded with a chuckle: "I feel a lot of different things. We were right there. We're getting better. We're fighting."
Corbin explained that the play was not eligible for an officials' review because the referees didn't blow their whistles and make a ruling one way or the other, instead allowing Kirilenko to continue with his game-tying attempt.
"It's a tough pill to swallow," Corbin added. "But no call was made, so we have to move on. … (Martin) was standing out of bounds, but if the referees don't make any call on it then we can't review it. If they had called something, then it could have been reviewed."
Had the call gone Utah's way, Corbin thought the Jazz might've been able to get off a better shot with just under a second left than the one Kirilenko put up while bumbling the touched ball.
"It would have been in good position because it was right under the basket, so we could have gotten a shot at it," said Corbin, whose team has had success in recent seasons on inbounds scoring plays.
"But," he added, "who knows what would've happened?"
At Friday's practice, Corbin also took the high road on the free-throw discrepancy in Thursday's fourth quarter when the Jazz took three foul shots compared to 25 freebies for the visiting Nuggets.
Corbin thought the Jazz were going to the hoop, so he wasn't sure why Utah didn't get more calls its way. But the big problem was that the Jazz picked up their fifth team foul only about four minutes into the final period, which put Denver on the free-throw line for most of the quarter.
"How they call it, we just have to make adjustments to it," Corbin said.
Ultimately, though, this Northwest Division rivalry game was lost by Utah — or won by Denver — not the referees.
The Jazz held a 90-85 lead with under six minutes remaining when things unraveled for them — something that's become a familiar scene in the fourth quarter during this three-game losing streak.
Utah missed three straight shots as Denver went on a 9-0 run. Then after regaining the lead, the Jazz made four turnovers in the final 3-1/2 minutes as the new-look Nuggets clinched their fifth win in six games since trading away Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
The loss, meanwhile, dropped the Jazz two games out of the playoff picture and gave Corbin a 1-7 mark since overtaking the head coaching reins from the resigned Jerry Sloan.
That puts extra pressure on Utah to win at home tonight when it hosts Sacramento at EnergySolutions Arena, where stunningly, the Jazz have not won in seven consecutive outings.
The last home win? Clear back on Jan. 31 against Charlotte, 83-78.
That marks the Jazz's longest home losing streak since 1982.
Utah is also just 1-4 since trading two-time All-Star Deron Williams to New Jersey for Devon Harris and Derrick Favors.
"Mistakes … in key situations (are) costing us the game," Corbin said. "But the effort's been good, and I think we'll get better as guys get used to each other and trust each other a little bit more."
Corbin admits that lack of success is "frustrating for everybody," but he said the team is sticking together through these challenging times.
"There's hope that we can get better," Corbin said. "There's trust that we're a good team and there's belief that if we stay together and fight together, we'll win together."
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