ATLANTA — Three times during what lasted long enough to become known simply as The Streak, the Jazz won despite being down by double digits.
A fourth such victory, however, was not to be.
Utah did rally from 16 down late in the opening half Wednesday night to take a five-point lead in the third quarter, but Atlanta responded with a late comeback of its own to win 100-93 at sparsely filled Philips Arena.
And with that, the Jazz's 12-game win streak — fourth-longest in franchise history, and three shy of matching the record — came to a close.
Complacency, especially early on in the second game of a back-to-back set and the third outing of a five-game Eastern road swing, was the factor cited frequently afterward.
"I guess on a 12-game win streak we get a little cocky," point guard Deron Williams said after the Jazz came up mostly dry down the stretch, managing only four Ronnie Brewer free throws in the game's final five minutes.
"Nobody cares what you did last night or what you did yesterday," added Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, whose 41-24 club started its trip with victories at Toronto and Indiana and concludes it with games Saturday at Miami and Sunday night at Orlando. "You've got to come and play hard. We didn't play hard the first half."
Atlanta, which improved to 37-28 while getting a game-high 31 points from Joe Johnson and double-doubles from Al Horford and Josh Smith, had a 10-point advantage before the game was more than five minutes old and led 53-37 late in the second quarter.
The Hawks took a 55-42 advantage into the break, but the Jazz — who earlier in The Streak overcame deficits of 11 points vs. Boston, 12 at Minnesota and 19 against Denver — were up by five after 20-point team-high scorer Deron Williams followed a 17-foot jumper with a layup to make it 69-64 with 2:20 to go in the third.
"We had a tough time trying to play together and stay together in the first part of the ballgame," Sloan said. "They got themselves going, they got some dunks — and they scored a lot of easy baskets off our missed shots.
"I thought we played much harder the second half to try to get in the ballgame," he added, "(but) obviously when you're on the road you can't afford to make mistakes. We made some mistakes and missed some shots."
That was especially the case down the stretch, when one Jazz possession after another went awry.
Utah, in fact, didn't have a field goal after Mehmet Okur's jumper made it 89-87 Jazz with 5:01 left.
Johnson answered Okur, and a deflected pass from Williams led to a Flip Murray dunk that put Atlanta ahead to stay at 91-89.
Okur's failed runner, blocked by Smith and saved from going out of bounds on a Hawks hustle play, was followed by a Horford dunk from which the Jazz never quite could recover.
"The dunk by Flip and the dunk by (Horford) kind of broke us a little bit," Williams said, "and we weren't able to gain our composure after that point."
Offensive follies followed in a flurry, as Brewer air-balled a 3-pointer between his four freebies, Andrei Kirilenko failed to connect on a pass to Paul Millsap, Boozer got called for a pick that sent Hawks guard Mike Bibby to the floor, Kirilenko missed a deep trey try, Williams came up short on a jumper, Horford blocked Millsap and a Williams pass intended for Okur missed the mark.
Yet it wasn't the end so much as the beginning that really got under Sloan's skin.
"No," he said, "we didn't run out of gas.
"We just didn't come with gas early."
Either way, the tank is dry — and Sloan is seeking a refill.57 comments on this story
But it was a drive well worth the fuel, one which vaulted the Jazz from the outside edge of the NBA's Western Conference playoff picture to the thick of both the conference and the Northwest Division races.
"These guys deserve a little bit of credit for fighting through some tough times," Sloan said. "I don't want to take anything away from them.
"But, still, in all, once you put yourself in this position you've got to be ready to go every day, because everybody gets ready to play you," he added. "Everybody wants to knock you out of the box if you've got a little streak going."