LOS ANGELES — On Friday, the Utah Jazz lost a heartbreaking game. Tonight, they'll get a rare chance at a quick rematch game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
And on Saturday?
They played a little second-guessing game.
Lose a rough one after leading by 19 points in the second half, and the would'ves, could'ves and should'ves are bound to emerge.
"It's tough. It's tough," Jazz forward Paul Millsap said before Saturday's practice. "We're not really into moral victories, but we felt like we played a good game."
Just not quite good enough to stop the NBA's hottest team, which has won 16 games in a row, including two over the Jazz by a total of three points.
"We did some good things," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said about his team the morning after Friday's 116-114 loss to the Clippers. "But then we made some mistakes down the stretch that cost us."
Without getting specific, Corbin included himself among the mistake-makers.
"I do (second guess)," he said. "You look at situations and how you could have played some of the things differently, some of the play calls. That's the way you learn."
One of the calls that backseat coaches grumbled about in the aftermath of the demoralizing defeat was how Corbin left Al Jefferson in for the Clippers' final offensive possession instead of bringing defensive stalwart Derrick Favors back into the game for the final 17 seconds.
Big Al ended up fouling Chris Paul, who escaped from the Jazz's attempted trap at the 3-point line with 3.4 seconds remaining. The star point guard then hit what proved to be game-winning free throws.
Corbin explained that his decision with that particular lineup call was based in part because Favors was in foul trouble but mostly because the Jazz wanted Big Al on the floor for their next scoring opportunity.
"Derrick had five fouls and Al had been in," Corbin said. "We were going to him offensively."
Corbin isn't opposed to making situational substitutions, which he's done with Favors and Jefferson, not to mention DeMarre Carroll and Randy Foye more recently. But in this case, he decided it was best to have Jefferson on the court even though the Jazz had a timeout remaining to make a switch.
"We were banking on getting the ball out of Chris Paul's hands," Corbin said.
Things got hairy when Paul quickly evaded the trap, and Jefferson instinctively reached in to tap the ball away from the guard as he started to blow past him.
"It wasn't the best play," Corbin said, adding that Jefferson probably should've "zoned him" instead of reaching in. "We were just trying to trap him and get him to make the pass to somebody else."
The Jazz then didn't get a very good look at a final shot to force overtime or win it because Foye had to take the inbounds pass further from the basket than preferred. The shooting guard hoped contact with Matt Barnes would result in free throws, but the referees didn't blow their whistles on the final play.
The Jazz thought that should've been called a foul.
And about the play 42 seconds earlier when Millsap was met by Blake Griffin while driving to the basket without a foul being called?
"I felt like I went in pretty strong, tried to draw a little contact," Millsap said. "Refs didn't call it, so we had to move on from it."
That all resulted in the Jazz losing a second home game in December to the Clippers after they'd led by double digits in the second half.
Having been an NBA head coach for nearly two full calendar years, Corbin understands that criticism comes with the territory.
"In coaching, you've got to understand if things go well somebody else might get the credit for it," he said. "If things go bad, you're going to get blamed for it. That's the business."
Corbin said it's his job to make sure his players are prepared, organized and execute.
"You've just got to go out and do the best job you can," he said.
As for Paul, he was excited to have ball in his hands despite what defense the Jazz threw at him. He thought Jamaal Tinsley was going to come after him, and that didn't happen. And he said he "wasn't worried about Hayward," whom he'd beaten for a jumper moments earlier.
"I was just worried about Al Jefferson. I could tell he was going to try and blitz me," Paul said. "Anytime two guys try and trap me, I'm always going to attack the slower guy. If they wouldn't have called the foul, I was right around Al anyway. I get a chance to end the game."
Now the Jazz find themselves in a rare situation in which they face the same opponent in consecutive games.
"It's going to be the same team on their home floor. We competed against them. We played two tough games here on our home floor against them," Corbin said. "We know the personnel. We have a feel for what we can do and be successful against them. We know we have to get better at the pick-and-roll to have a chance."
The Jazz also expect Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford and crew to be even more energetic at Staples Center in front of Clipper Darrell and fans.
"We have to respond and move on and be ready," Corbin said.
Utah (15-16) likes the way it matches up with the 24-6 Clippers, who are currently the league's best team.
"We do (match up well). The last two games we played them we had over 10 point leads and we've just blown them," Millsap said. "So we feel like we have the better advantage, we have the better chemistry (and feel) that we can actually beat this team."
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