NEW ORLEANS — The Utah Jazz did it again.
Ha. Good one.
Play inconsistently, lose focus, fall apart on the road, show a lack of effort and make fans scream at TVs and computers while losing to a vastly inferior and undermanned team?
Yep. That's it.
"It just feels like a dream," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "I wish I could wake up."
Unfortunately, Utah players and coaches can't pinch themselves out of this nightmare.
A night after looking like a sure-bet playoff team in a 10-point win at Memphis, the Jazz looked as awkward and out of sorts as a couple of wholesome missionaries on Bourbon Street.
And, yes, they did that against a four-win team.
Scratch that. The New Orleans Hornets improved to a lofty 5-23 with this unlikely 86-80 win over a terrific-one-night-terrible-the-next Jazz squad.
Embarrassing. Surprised. Disappointing.
Beyond disappointing. Flat. No excuse.
Lack of concentration. Wheels fell off. Heads weren't into it.
By the way, these weren't a sports writer's words to describe getting stung by a Hornets team that had lost 23 of 25 coming into Monday's game.
These descriptions of this devastating and demoralizing defeat came from the Jazz, who blew an opportunity to build on momentum gained (or apparently not) from Sunday's nice win over the Grizzlies.
"We should be ashamed of ourselves, I know that," Jefferson said. "We just didn't play like we wanted tonight. There's no way in the world we should've lost to that team. But we did."
The Jazz weren't playing incredibly well, but they did take an early eight-point lead and looked well on their way to cruising into Oklahoma City with wins in their first two road games in this back-to-back-to-back set.
After all, NBA-owned New Orleans had dropped eight straight.
Plus, because of injuries, the post-Chris-Paul-era Hornets were without key players like Eric Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack.
And, no, they didn't have someone named Jeremy Lin hiding on the bench.
But they did have Chris Kaman, who scored 27 points, hauled in 13 rebounds and was instrumental in turning Utah's eight-point lead into a 20-point lead of their own.
New Orleans also had somebody named Gustavo Ayon calling for the ball and Marco Belinelli, who each contributed 13 points. Greivis Vasquez had 12 points and 10 assists — more dimes than the entire starting Jazz squad had in their pockets by the end.
"No disrespect to New Orleans," Jefferson said, "(but) it's like New York. They was missing some key players and I guess we just walked out there thinking they were going to let us win. We just can't do that."
Or they'll lose by six points to a team that's so bad — second-worst to three-win Charlotte — it even hurt its own lottery chances by beating the 14-13 Jazz.
"For right now, it's the most disappointing (loss) for me," a stunned Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "It's tough after the way we played last night. I just didn't expect us to come out with this effort."
Or lack thereof — especially in the middle of the game when the Jazz had successive 15-point quarters and their offense was off searching for a Mardi Gras parade or beads or something other than executing properly.
"Beyond disappointing," Jazz guard Earl Watson said. "Simply beyond disappointing."
Turnovers were a major problem. The Jazz coughed up the ball 20 times, leading to 23 Hornets points.
New Orleans' zone defense was troublesome as well. That stymied Utah's offense into shooting just 41 percent a night after making more than half of their shots in Memphis.
"Early in the game, we came out and we were playing pretty hard," Jazz guard Raja Bell said. "I thought we had a nice thing going. I don't know where the wheels fell off, but they did."
Bell couldn't answer why. Nobody could.
"In the second half, it was obvious that our heads weren't into it," Bell said, referring to the third quarter in which Utah was outscored 25-15 and fell behind by 20. "We were throwing the ball all over the gym, just doing things that were pretty uncharacteristic for us. Our sets were awful. Our offense was terrible."
Still, a rag-tag group of Jazz players somehow made things interesting down the stretch.
Starter Gordon Hayward joined subs Watson, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks with eight minutes remaining and Utah down by 17, and that group erased all but three points off of the Hornets' lead.
Corbin said he doesn't intend to make lineup changes after this dud, and one of his starters didn't blame him for letting the majority of the main guys finish out the game on the bench.
"I would've done the same thing the way we started the third quarter," Jefferson said. "I would've done the same thing."
Favors' putback brought the Jazz to within 83-80, but Kaman and Trevor Ariza hit free throws to end Utah's comeback bid and make for a long, long flight to Oklahoma City.
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