MEMPHIS, Tenn. — ’Twas the trip before Christmas and, well, this particular holiday tale doesn’t have a happy ending.
Except that it’s over.
Don’t worry. It’s not going to rhyme, either.
Wrapping up a grueling part of their schedule, the Utah Jazz suffered a 104-94 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night at FedEx Forum.
“We showed some fight,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said, “but we lost the ballgame.”
Several players and coaches took off to their various homes from Memphis to spend a couple of days during Christmas time with their family and friends. The Jazz don’t practice again until Thursday, giving them some rest before hosting the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
“It’ll go quick. These two days will go really fast,” Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward said. “It’s nice to be able to spend some time with your family that you don’t always necessarily get to see and get away from the game and kind of get your mind some relaxation time as well and come back ready to go.”
The loss gave the Jazz a 2-3 record on their annual pre-Christmas trip, which began in Miami and then continued in Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte before ending in Elvis’ front yard.
Going back to Dec. 10, when the Jazz started a stretch of seven of eight road games with stops in Sacramento and Denver, Utah has traveled approximately 6,512 miles in less than two weeks.
The Jazz, who dropped to 8-23, went 4-4 in that tough travel period.
“You miss home, for sure. I thought we played all right for the most part,” Hayward said. “We had some games where we didn’t play well, but we always bounced back, and that’s a positive sign for us.”
The Jazz had some positive signs in this Monday loss in Memphis, including Hayward coming awfully close to grabbing his first triple-double. Despite going against Tony Allen, one of the toughest defenders in the league, Hayward finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, four blocks and one steal.
“Just playing hard, competing,” Hayward said. “Not enough, though. Not enough for a win.”
Utah was in this one through three quarters, with the Grizzlies holding a 77-71 lead to begin the final period.
But backup guard Jerryd Bayless opened the final stanza with a 3-pointer — one of four he hit — and the Grizzlies sucked the life out of the Jazz as the quarter progressed.
Bayless nearly outscored the entire Jazz bench with 17 points. Utah’s reserves combined to score only 18 compared to a season-high 51 for the Memphis backups. Jeremy Evans chipped in eight points, but Alec Burks had a quiet night with only four and center Enes Kanter turned in another scoreless effort on 0-of-5 shooting.
“We’ve got to get better,” Corbin said. “We have been better coming off the bench. We just didn’t get the spark tonight.”
Sub John Lucas III gave the Jazz some life late in the third with a pair of 3-pointers to trim Memphis’ lead to 74-71, but Memphis went on a 19-9 run to take its biggest lead at 96-80 with 5:43 remaining.
“It’s frustrating the way we came out and the runs we gave up. We talk about it all season, but I’m proud of us for competing,” Hayward said. “We were in the game. We had an opportunity. We just came up a little short.”
Rookie Trey Burke and veteran Richard Jefferson led the Jazz in scoring with 18 points apiece, and power forward Derrick Favors added 16.
But the Jazz just seemed to run out of energy — or maybe visions of sugar plums were dancing in their heads — as this road trip neared an end.
“It‘s good that we get the next 48 hours or so off, just to get to enjoy Christmas with our family,” Burke said. “It was definitely a long trip.”
NOTES: This was the fourth game in a row the Jazz have faced a former player. Center Kosta Koufos started for the Grizzlies (12-15), who were missing injured Marc Gasol and Tayshaun Prince. Koufos scored 10 points, including a spree of six points to begin the second half. The Jazz hit 11 of 24 3-pointers, while Memphis went 11-for-20 from deep. Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph had a big game with 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
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