WASHINGTON, D.C. — Before facing the worst team in the NBA on Monday night, Utah coach Tyrone Corbin reminded his players they’re not the kind of team that can simply be there for tipoff and expect to come out victorious 48 basketball minutes later.
“We’re not that kind of team just yet,” Corbin said. “We can’t just expect to show up against anybody and win the games.”
A night after heartbreakingly learning (again) against Indiana that they can beat — or compete with — just about any team if they play with fire and focus, the Jazz refreshed their memories (again) that they can also get embarrassed by any team too if they don’t try.
The 114-88 loss to the 12-win Milwaukee Bucks falls in the latter category.
“Right now, it’s just a frustrating loss after the performance (Sunday) night, the things we talked about, the growth we showed,” Corbin said Monday after watching his team get decimated. “We just didn’t get it back (Monday).”
Corbin only hopes that will be relearned in time for the Jazz to salvage something from this six-game road trip, which is off to an 0-3 start. Maybe Tuesday's team-building trip to the U.S. Capitol Building with Sen. Orrin Hatch will give them a needed spark.
“We’ve got to learn the lesson (from Monday), learn the lesson from (Sunday) night,” Corbin said, “and look at how we played and what kind of performance we gave and what kind of chance we have with the effort.”
His players agree heading into Wednesday’s matchup with the Wizards.
“I think we just have to forget about this game and just look forward,” Jazz center Enes Kanter said. “We have three tough games coming up; Washington first. They’re waiting for us. They’re not going to feel sorry for us either. We just have to play 48 minutes and play like we did (Sunday).”
Utah was much more physical on defense and executed with more precision in that last-second 94-91 loss to Indiana. The Jazz were just a mess in Milwaukee in every aspect of the game.
“We have to do a better job with who we’re going to play against,” Kanter said.
The Jazz’s play in the first and third quarters basically sealed their fate for a funky game Monday. Utah’s starters fell flat, getting doubled up at 24-12 less than eight minutes into the game, and that first unit struggled again in the second half, allowing the Bucks to go on an 8-0 run out of the break.
That, despite how the group of Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams and Derrick Favors were 18-11 when starting together before Monday's massacre.
Corbin subbed quicker than usual in the third quarter, taking Jefferson, Williams and Favors out in favor of Kanter, Alec Burks and Jeremy Evans.
But Utah still saw its seven-point halftime deficit balloon to 28 points by the time the fourth quarter rolled around.
“We kind of lacked energy (Monday),” Jazz backup point guard Diante Garrett said. “If we just came out with more energy like how we did (Sunday), I think we would’ve been OK. Things happen.” Bad things in Milwaukee happen, it turns out.
Kanter was about the lone bright spot, finishing with a career-high 27 points and 14 rebounds.
Coincidentally, fellow Turkish native Ersan Ilyasova led the Bucks with 31 points on incredible 13-of-14 shooting.
“There’s something about those Turkish guys, huh?” Kanter said, smiling. “The sad thing is he did it against us. I’m still proud of him. He played really hard. He just represented the country, so I’m really happy for him.”
As he occasionally does when being questioned about rotations and minute distribution, Corbin got a tad defensive when asked about Favors playing less than 19 minutes. The starting center hit just 1 of 5 shots for just two points and five rebounds.
“Did you watch the game?” Corbin asked another reporter. “What would you think?”
Corbin then quickly explained his decision to stick with Kanter on this night for 34 1/2 minutes.
“He was having success down there,” the coach said. “He was going a little stronger.”
The Jazz will need several more players to go a lot stronger if they hope to win Wednesday night against John Wall's playoff-bound Wiz (31-29) or even against the hapless Knicks (21-40) and free-falling Philadelphia (15-45) on Friday and Saturday.
“I expected the back-to-back (struggle),” Kanter said. “But we can’t have any excuses.”
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