ATLANTA — At one point in the third quarter, Utah coach Jerry Sloan felt obliged to bench all five players he had on the floor. The Jazz's starters had been outscored 64-31. Carlos Boozer scored just six points and Deron Williams two — with a combined eight turnovers.
The showing was so odorous, Williams felt obliged to say he was sorry.
The first expression of contrition came in the visiting locker room at Philips Arena, after the Atlanta Hawks — who at one point late in the third led by as many as 32 points — finished polishing off the Jazz 96-83 on Friday night.
"It was a bad game," Williams told reporters. "It's one of those games you try to forget about and just move on.
"We apologize to all the fans out there," he added. "We let you all down."
The second confession of regret was posted on his Twitter account sometime after Utah's team bus headed to the airport for a flight to Charlotte, where tonight the Jazz visit the Bobcats in stop No. 3 on a five-game pre-Christmas road trip.
Williams' tweet to his followers: "Can't wait to play 2mara appologies to all the jazz fans out there for my play personally and the teams play as well No excuse...."
But there was some explanation for how the 19-6 Hawks, who had balanced scoring topped by Josh Smith's 16, had their way with a Jazz team now 4-4 in its last eight games.
It centered on Atlanta's defense and seemed to be something of a bone of contention.
"Their length just hurt us," said Williams, who shot 1-for-8 from the field. "They switched everything; we really didn't have an answer for that; we didn't have a game plan against that, and they played good basketball."
Williams was guarded by Hawks shooting guard Joe Johnson, who has 4 inches on him.
"He's seen that before, though. It wasn't that. It was more the switching," Boozer said.
"We just didn't get used to the switching and … whatever we ran, it seemed like it wasn't working. They kept switching defenses, and they'd pack it in inside; they'd go for steals. It's almost as if we played right into their hands. Whatever their scheme was worked."
"I'm used to having big guys on me, because a lot of teams do it," added Williams, who had his lowest-scoring game since February 2007 against Boston. "But … this time they just switched everything, and it took us out of our rhythm; it took us out of our offense. We didn't really have an answer for it, didn't really know what to do against it."
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan's take?
"They were terrific defensively. We had a tough time trying to adjust to what they were doing," he said. "They switched a lot on us. We reacted very poorly, and turned the ball over and played right into their hands.
"All of a sudden, we didn't really believe that we could do anything in our offense. We stood. When they switched, big or small, we just stood in one spot and let them guard us. Didn't react to it very well at all.
"But not all of it's (Williams') fault," Sloan added, "because a couple of times our big guys just stood in their tracks."
The Jazz were within two midway through the second quarter, but the Hawks reeled off a 10-2 run after Kyle Korver missed a jumper and C.J. Miles put up an ill-advised trey try that really riled Sloan.
Atlanta, up by 10 at halftime after Utah scored a season-low 34 points before the break, had another huge run in a 37-14 third quarter — 22-2 in all, including 16-0 on the tail end.
And when Jamal Crawford hit a 3 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third, the Hawks were up 74-42.
Only a 32-15 Jazz fourth quarter, manned mostly by Matthews and subs Ronnie Price, Eric Maynor, Kyrylo Fesenko and Andrei Kirilenko, prevented the final score from being much uglier.
"We played like crap," Williams said. "You know, I played like crap. Pretty much the whole team, except for the last group that was out there, did."
It was with 5:51 left in the third and Utah down 67-40 that Sloan pulled Williams, Boozer, Matthews, Ronnie Brewer and Mehmet Okur — and only rookie Matthews — who called the loss "embarrassing," would later return.
"As a coach," Boozer said, "you've got to do what's best for the team."
And for Sloan, that was an easy call.