Wednesday's 26-point shellacking the Utah Jazz received from the Charlotte Hornets was just a blip on the radar screen.
Or so the Jazz, winners of 18 of their last 20 games, would like to think.While the Jazz players were subdued in the post-game locker room following their worst loss of the season, they seemed to agree that it was just one of those nights where nothing went right. The prevailing sentiment was that after 11 consecutive victories, they were due to have a bad outing.
"It was just one of those kind of games you sometimes have during a season," said Karl Malone. "You can't think about it. You've just got to get ready to play again."
"Everyone on the team seemed to have a bad game," said Jeff Hornacek. "Hopefully, we can bounce back."
The Jazz will try to bounce back tonight against a much-improved Phil-a-delphia 76ers club. The game is Utah's fourth in its current five-game road trip. Tip-off at the CoreStates Center is set for 5:30 p.m. (MST).
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, like his players, had an off night on Wednesday. He was ejected in the second quarter for picking up a second technical foul. He's hoping his team was embarrassed enough that they'll come out with a vengeance tonight.
"You can't feel sorry for yourselves" after a lopsided loss, said Sloan. "We've got to be tough enough to go right back to work again. I always look forward to seeing what guys are like after the bad times. It's easy when everybody is patting you on the back and telling you how great you are. It's at times like this that you see what kind of people you're dealing with."
Wednesday's loss dropped the Jazz (48-17) two games behind the Seattle SuperSonics for the best record in the Western Conference. The Sonics have a more favorable schedule down the stretch, meaning Utah can't afford many more off nights during its final 17 games of the regular season if it hopes to earn homecourt advantage through-out the playoffs.
Utah shot just 37 percent from the field, more than 11 percentage points below its league-leading average against the Hornets. The Jazz were beaten in every aspect of the game - and they heard about it afterward when they received a stern scolding from their coach.
"The guys went out there and didn't compete hard," said Sloan. "I have a right, as a coach, to be upset with that. The day I don't have that right, I'll get out of coaching."
Tonight the Jazz will play a team with the second worst record in the Eastern Conference.
That hardly means the 25-40 Sixers will be a pushover, however. Philadelphia won its third game in four tries on Wednesday and is playing its best ball of the season. Point guard Allen Iverson scored a season-high 38 points in leading the 76ers to a road win over the Detroit Pistons in their last outing.
Iverson and Co. gave the Jazz all they could handle in the only other meeting between the two teams this year. He scored 27 points and led a Philadelphia rally that forced overtime before the Jazz escaped with a 98-95 victory in the Delta Center in January.
Philly forward Joe Smith (abdominal strain) is questionable for tonight's game, while Derrick Cole-man (sprained left ankle) is on the injured list.
Jazz center/forward Antoine Carr strained his right hamstring in the first quarter on Wednesday. Whether he plays will be a game-time decision. Malone, whose right eye nearly swelled shut after a swipe to his face in the second quarter against Charlotte, will play, as usual. Jazz center Greg Ostertag will play in his second game back after being activated from the injured list. Ostertag suffered through a 1-for-7 shooting night for two points against the Hornets after sitting out for 17 games with a stress fracture to his left leg.
Utah will complete its final extended road trip of the year on Sunday afternoon against the Knicks at Madision Square Garden.