The Jazz's playoff hopes came down to the final night of the regular season. Seven preventable losses helped put them in that position.
It wasn't just the fact that the Hornets ended up being one of the worst teams in the league. They were also without top returning scorer Eric Gordon (injury). New Orleans also ended up losing Anthony Davis after he was elbowed by his teammate and fellow rookie Austin Rivers in the first half.
Without Gordon, without Davis, the Hornets somehow made Utah's first road game of the season a sign of things to come. The Jazz could — and, it turned out, would — lose to anyone on the road.Nice
Even if that anyone included Robin Lopez (19 points, seven rebounds) outdueling Al Jefferson (10 points, eight rebounds).
A 14-point, second-half lead at home wasn't enough, not even with Mo Williams turning in 20 points and 12 assists.
Incredibly, the game ended with the Jazz playing for a comeback win, with Randy Foye nearly coming up with a Reggie Miller-esque sequence in the final two seconds. His 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left pulled Utah within one, and he stole the ensuing inbounds pass.
His shot attempt missed, a moot point since it came after the buzzer sounded.
It was a near-heroic attempt the Jazz shouldn't have needed.
Consider this: before Phoenix hosted Utah on Dec. 14, the Suns had trailed by double digits in all but one of their previous 11 home games.
Against the Jazz, Phoenix rarely trailed at all.
The Suns ended the season with the worst record in the Western Conference, but Utah somehow managed just 40.2 percent shooting against them.
In a year the Jazz absolutely needed to beat inferior teams, this loss stays stuck in the throat.
This defeat kicked off the most torturous stretch of the season: three consecutive losses decided by a combined five points.
All three defeats featured spectacular last-minute collapses.
After wiping out a double-digit deficit, the Jazz held a two-point lead and the ball with 16 seconds left after Monta Ellis missed. Paul Millsap was intentionally fouled and missed the second free throw.
Brandon Jennings made a deep 3-pointer to tie it at 99-99 with eight seconds left. With a chance to win, Gordon Hayward's shot was blocked and Enes Kanter's putback attempt missed.
J.J. Redick scored eight of the Bucks' 10 overtime points to hand Utah the loss.
Instead of forfeiting a two-point lead in 16 seconds, Utah saw an eight-point lead disappear in three minutes thanks to Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers point guard scored 11 of his 20 points over the final 4:21 of the game.
Utah's production in the final two minutes? Four missed shots, two turnovers and a Gordon Hayward free throw.
Former Cavs head coach Byron Scott said it best after the game.
"Merry Christmas to us," Scott said. "We got lucky. That was a gift, basically."
Part 3 of Utah's nightmare road trip marked the return of Al Jefferson from injury
which made the game-ending sequence even harder for Jazz fans to endure.
With Utah up two after a Jefferson jumper with 51 seconds left, the teams traded misses before the Bulls got one last chance. Marco Bellinelli's short jumper missed, but Joakim Noah wriggled his way through traffic for the offensive rebound, which he saved from going out of bounds by throwing it to Jimmy Butler.
Butler promptly whipped the ball out to wide-open Belinelli behind the 3-point line, where he gave the Bulls a one-point lead with 5.9 seconds left.
Gordon Hayward's mid-range jumper for the win was off.
No Carmelo Anthony. No Amare Stoudemire. No Tyson Chandler.
No problem for the Knicks.
Against perhaps the most short-handed team they saw all season, the Jazz eked out a measly 83 points on 38.2 percent shooting. The loss came despite outrebounding the the Knicks by 12, including an 11-board advantage on the offensive glass.
New York's saving grace? J.R. Smith's 20 points off the bench along with an unlikely effort from the league's oldest player, Kurt Thomas.