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Utah Jazz not giving up on playoff hopes

Published: Friday, July 3 2015 2:09 a.m. MDT

OKLAHOMA CITY — Realistically, the Utah Jazz's playoff hopes fall somewhere in the gray area between slim and none.

Technically, they're three games behind Memphis for the last playoff spot. But the Grizzlies have a large lead on the tiebreaker, which falls to their Western Conference records because of their tied 2-2 season series. (Memphis is 24-19 in the West, while Utah has struggled to an 18-24 mark.)

So, basically, the Jazz are four games out with 11 remaining.

And that's just to overtake Memphis.

Red-hot Houston and Phoenix have both leapfrogged Utah in the standings, leaving the Jazz clear back in the No. 11 spot in the West.

Barring multiple miracles in the next few weeks, that standings scenario most likely means the Jazz will have lost their Hall of Fame coach, their two-time All-Star point guard and leader and their annual place at the postseason table.

Keep in mind, this is a team that was once 15-5 and later 27-13 and showed signs of being a potential playoff contender with thrilling comeback wins over the likes of the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers.

"It's been up and down," Jazz guard C.J. Miles said. "It's been a roller coaster of a season. I've been here six years and I've never seen this many things that have happened."

But despite all of the player and personnel movement — not to mention a Portland-like string of injuries — Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin looked reporters in the eyes following Utah's second straight devastating defeat in as many nights Monday and convincingly claimed that the team has not thrown in the white towel yet.

"We're still in it until we're not in it," the rookie coach said. "We've got to keep fighting."

Onlookers might wonder if that has been the case — especially considering the Jazz's late-game meltdown and turnover fest against Memphis.

"For a minute there, you could say it seemed like we might have given up on the season, which wasn't the case," Jazz guard C.J. Miles said. "We just had some rough times. It was hard for us to transition. We put it together a little bit and we started to get back at it."

Then, well, loss after loss — on and off the court — started to happen.

But the Jazz insist they aren't accepting a season-ending slump or calling out uncle.

"They're fighting," Corbin said. "We don't have the success we're looking for, but as long as we continue to fight we're in good shape."

Added Raja Bell: "I don't think we laid down (Monday). I don't think we're going to lay down. I can only speak personally. That's not my style. I don't think it's my teammates' style. But those are obviously two tough losses with the tough schedule coming up in front us."

Add veteran backup point guard Earl Watson to the list of Jazz personnel who aren't ready to admit the season is all but over.

Not that that would change things for Watson, who'll be counted on as the starter tonight against the Thunder with Devin Harris out with a strained right hamstring.

"For me, regardless of what the record is and where the season is at, I'm going to fight and play hard until the last," Watson said. "I don't care if we're in of it, out of the playoff race. I'm going to always play hard. That fight comes within each person."

Then again, with the way the Jazz are playing and whom they play over the final three weeks of the season, it might not matter if they fight or not. Even at their best, wins would be awfully hard to come by on a nightly basis for any team against most of Utah's remaining opponents.

Even so, Miles said the Jazz will continue to play in hopes of finishing the year strong.

"There's still a chance we can win," he said. "If we win as many games as possible, you never know what can happen."

Added Corbin: "This is a proud group of guys. I don't think they'll quit. I think they'll give what they have."

e-mail: jody@desnews.com

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