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Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz frustrated by late meltdowns

Published: Saturday, March 26 2011 11:56 p.m. MDT

Utah's Ronnie Price reacts after a call in the final minutes of the Jazz's loss to the Dallas Mavericks at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City on  Saturday, March 26, 2011. (Mike Terry, Deseret News) Utah's Ronnie Price reacts after a call in the final minutes of the Jazz's loss to the Dallas Mavericks at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 26, 2011. (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Al Jefferson clapping in the face of game official Nick Buchert said it all.

Jefferson was the face of the Utah Jazz's frustration after they let another home game slip away in the fourth quarter. This time, the Jazz fell apart in the final six minutes of the game, and watched the Dallas Mavericks race to a 94-77 victory on Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

Jefferson lost his cool in the final minute. After he received a technical foul for arguing with Buchert, he clapped in the official's face. That earned him a second technical and an ejection with 48.5 seconds left in the game.

Jefferson declined to discuss the incident with Buchert, saying only, "I'm speaking on the game. I don't want to speak on that part. I don't want to get in trouble."

The Jazz and Jefferson's frustration levels are off the charts partly because fourth quarters continue to cause them so much trouble. Utah collapsed again in the fourth quarter on Saturday, getting outscored 36-17 by the Mavericks, and the result was all too familiar for the Jazz.

Since Corbin took over for Jerry Sloan, the Jazz have played nine home games. They are 3-6 in those games, but have led in the fourth quarter in eight of them. In the other game — an 83-75 loss to Phoenix in Corbin's debut — the two teams were tied early in the fourth quarter.

Even in their three home wins under Corbin, the fourth quarter has been a trouble spot for the Jazz. They blew leads against Sacramento and Philadelphia and had to go to overtime to defeat them. At least the lowly Timberwolves were on the schedule, and Utah was able to comfortably beat them, 119-104.

Corbin attributed his team's fourth quarter struggles to youth — and that doesn't necessarily mean his players' ages or experience levels.

"It's the newness of the guys," Corbin said. "When you say youth, it's a combination of experience in the league, experience together. The guys (we) have now closing out games are all in a different spot. Before you had guys like a Deron (Williams) to make a play or make an easier play for someone else and it's new for them."

No one could make a play against the veteran Mavericks in the fourth quarter. Jefferson shot 2-for-8, and Utah made just seven baskets in the period. The Jazz had five turnovers in the final quarter.

Dallas took the lead for good when Jose Barea hit a 3-pointer to make it 71-70. That started a 13-0 run in which the Mavericks got out on fast breaks, and made easy baskets. Jason Terry made a 3-pointer and Tyson Chandler closed the run with a three-point play.

"We just made too many mistakes," Jefferson said. "I think we got away from what we were doing. We let other teams get us out of our game instead of staying focused and doing what we were doing the first three quarters. Against that type of team you can't make mistakes."

The difference between the two teams was glaring in the fourth quarter. The Mavericks are built to win now, and headed for the postseason. The Jazz are rebuilding and trying to find themselves. Figuring out the fourth quarter is one of their biggest challenges.

"We just got to get better," Corbin said. "We have to be learning from situations, executing and playing with a sense of urgency in close-out situations, and getting a little bit tougher."

e-mail: aaragon@desnews.com

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