We showed some fight... —Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin
PHILADELPHIA — Tyrone Corbin was worried.
He knew the Philadelphia 76ers couldn't have thrown the ball in the ocean if they were standing on what's left of the Superstorm Sandy-ravaged Jersey beach Wednesday, shooting a record-worst 29.8 percent in an 18-point loss to the previously winless Detroit Pistons.
He just hoped the Jazz could take their best shot early and still be able to come back with something.
They did, twice in fact, rallying from double-figure deficits to either tie or take the lead, led by the unlikeliest of suspects, DeMarre Carroll, who hadn't played six of the previous seven games. But as has been a constant problem throughout the season — especially rearing itself on their current four-game trip, which concludes Saturday night against winless Washington — has been finishing.
Once again that proved their undoing, as the Sixers proceeded to break open a tie game and build one last double-figure cushion Utah simply couldn't overcome in a 99-93 loss that dropped them to 4-6.
"We showed some fight," said Corbin, as Utah slipped to 1-6 on the road, despite Paul Millsap's 22 points — 14 coming in the third quarter — and Carroll's career-high 17.
"I thought our second unit really played great," added Corbin. "We took a lead, but we didn't continue with that energy. We need to make sure we understand a sense of urgency. We don't want to keep putting ourselves in a hole, especially on the road."
Yet that's been the rule far more than the exception during a killer stretch that sees the Jazz play 12 of its first 18 away from EnergySolutions Arena.
In this case the Jazz couldn't have been surprised to see Philadelphia — which was expected to be a factor in the East until learning that just-traded-for-center Andrew Bynum's bum knees wouldn't allow him to play until January at the earliest — come out of the gates like a team on a mission.
After all, Sixers' coach Doug Collins had called his team out after getting blown out by the Pistons, 94-76, particularly criticizing their effort.
Fully cognizant of that, the Jazz still stood idly by while Philly started off hitting nine of its first 12 (including four 3-pointers) to go up 22-12.
No matter how much Carroll and the second stringers tried to rally them, the Sixers always had the answer. And no, we're not talking about Allen Iverson.
"They started better off than us, because they were more hungry to start the game," said point guard Mo Williams, who scored 12 and handed out five assists but simply couldn't contain counterpart Jrue Holiday, who poured in 26. "There were enough write-ups to get them motivated."
As for the Jazz it was hard to find somebody who could really say the same.
"I'm always ready," said Carroll, who not only provided defense but a surge on offense, hitting all six of his shots. "In the NBA it's a long season. Every guy not gonna play well every night.
"So you have to take advantage of your opportunity. I've been through a lot my whole life. Health problems (a serious liver condition that nearly ended his pro career before it started) … Off-the-court issues (a 2007 shooting during a domestic dispute). So I'm blessed. A lot people out there wish they were in the NBA like me."
As heartfelt a story as that is, Carroll's gutty play wasn't rewarded with a Jazz victory. After an earlier 17-2 run gave Utah a brief 35-32 lead, the Jazz still went to the locker room down 52-43 at the half. By late in the third that had ballooned to 69-58, before Carroll scored seven in a 13-2 run that drew them even, 71-71 on Randy Foye's long jumper with 10:02 left.
But then things turned sour for the Jazz, Philadelphia going on a 13-2 tear of its own in just over three minutes, with Thaddeus and Nick Young accounting for seven of them. As always the Jazz kept plugging away, but never could get any closer than 86-82.
"I guess that's who we are," said Millsap, who played just 28 minutes and was sitting when the Sixers ultimately took charge. "When we get down we're gonna continue to fight. I just wish we had same effort and intensity to start the game off and when we tie it keep the same intensity."
On this night, though, like so many others, the Jazz were left wondering what might have been. Corbin often talks about the lessons his team learns through adversity.
He just wishes each lesson wouldn't keep ending up with an 'L'.