One night after routing the best team in the Eastern Conference — maybe the best team in the entire NBA — the Utah Jazz lost to the New Jersey Nets, a team that started the night 11 games under .500.

And the sad part is that nobody is surprised. It's par for the course for the Jazz.

To be fair, Saturday's loss was by just a bucket on their fourth road game in five nights. That's tough, and the Jazz put in a good effort.

Still, sometimes it seems the Jazz players don't realize that a win over, say, the Minnesota Timberwolves counts just as much in the standings as a win over the Celtics.

As pretty as the victory in Boston may have been, it still only counts as one.

The Jazz just don't seem to understand that even teams with bad records in the association are stocked with NBA-caliber players. It's like the Jazz choose to always play hard at home but decide to put in their best effort on the road only if they are going against one the league's elite teams.

How else do you explain losses to the likes of the 'Wolves, Bulls, Clippers, Heat, Bobcats and Knicks?

Utah's two stars pretty much admitted after the Celtics win that they feel some games are more important than others.

"I definitely was looking forward to this game," said Deron Williams after the win in Boston. "They were the last team to beat us at home ... and I definitely wanted to avenge that."

Carlos Boozer agreed. "Those are the games you circle on your calendar, when you're playing against the best teams," said Boozer, who wasn't the problem on Saturday, scoring a career-best 41 points.

There are NBA games that are bigger than others. They're called playoff games. Until then, all 82 count just the same in the standings.

It's impossible to be at the top of your game every single night during the marathon NBA season, of course. It's only natural for the Jazz players to be more excited to play games against other championship-level teams. Fans — and ticket scalpers — get more excited for games against the Lakers than the Clippers.

But with the Western Conference standings so tight, the Jazz need to realize that winning a game in Chicago is just as vital to their spot in the standings as a win in Boston.

Had the Jazz not blown a 10-point, second-half lead in New Jersey, they would have been in a virtual tie with the Spurs — with one more win and one more loss. It was a huge game, just like the one in Boston.

The Jazz already have 44 victories this season with 14 games remaining. They realistically have a chance to earn homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs and maybe even the second round, too.

But they can't afford to constantly play to the level of their competition, especially on the road. Had it not been for the impressive win over the Celtics, Utah's latest four-game trip would have been a 1-3 disaster.

Utah plays eight of its next nine games in the friendly confines of the EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz could find themselves with one of the top three records in the West by the time that stretch is done.

But the Jazz should beware of that lone road game. After all, it's against the Timberwolves.

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