CLEVELAND — Sometimes the ball rolls your way.
And sometimes it takes a ride around the rim, acts like it's about to fall in for a possible win — and one heck of a heroic-return highlight — but then rolls such a bizarre way that you find yourself losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers while continuing to distress your panicking fan base and plunging closer to lottery territory.
The latter roll happened to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
In a final score that isn't as surprising as it might've been a week ago — before Utah lost five of six games as it now has — the Jazz lost to the Cavaliers, 104-101.
"This," Jazz guard Randy Foye admitted, "is a tough one to swallow."
Guuuuuuulp. The Jazz, now just 1 1/2 games ahead of the surging Lakers, were outscored 12-1 down the stretch and watched in shock as Mo Williams' game-winning layup turned into a point-blank miss with five seconds to go.
"He went to the basket. I thought he had a good shot. It rolled out," said a stunned Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. "It's heartbreaking. Heartbreaking. He had a good look."
Just as Mo Williams thought he'd put his struggling squad up in the waning moments with a layup, the Spalding took a wicked spin around the cylinder and trickled out of the hoop.
Williams had one last shot to make something positive happen for a team in desperate need of that, but his off-balanced 3-pointer clanged off the rim in the last second.
That miss wasn't as perplexing as the oh-so-close botched layup that had a bit too much rotation on it and ended up in Tristan Thompson's hands with 3.9 seconds remaining.
Wayne Ellington then gave the Cavs (21-40) their final three-point spread over Utah (32-29) by hitting two free throws with 2.8 to go.
Williams used words like "amazing" and "dumbfounded" to describe what could've been the shot of the night in his comeback game in front of the fans that he played for from 2008-11.
"I've never, ever saw anything like that. I don’t think I've ever missed a layup, even practicing," he said. "I've shot a trillion layups in my life, but I've never missed one like that, the way it came in and went out."
By the way, yes, you read that correctly. Williams indeed played after hinting that he would in this one the past few days.
Williams' return to the Jazz's lineup — and starting point guard position — after missing the previous 32 games with a surgery-requiring thumb injury was accompanied by more changes to the first five.
In an attempt to get more energy at the beginning of the game and the second half, Corbin replaced Marvin Williams (zero points) with DeMarre Carroll (four points) in the opening group. Derrick Favors (12 rebounds, six points) also started for the second straight game while filling in for injured center Al Jefferson.
Mo Williams scored the first five points of the night for the Jazz and finished with eight points, six assists and four turnovers in his first game since Dec. 22 in Miami.
"I felt OK," Williams said. "It'll take a few games to get my rhythm back, but I thought for the first game back in a long time, I thought I played OK."
For most of the night, the Jazz played even better than that.
Gordon Hayward scored 15 of his game-high 25 in the second quarter to help the Jazz take a 51-49 lead at halftime. Then Randy Foye snapped out of his slump, hitting three 3-pointers — after missing his previous 11 — in the third quarter as the Jazz went ahead by as many as 14.
With Enes Kanter (17 points, seven rebounds), Paul Millsap (16 points, eight rebounds) and Alec Burks (14 points) playing well again, Utah held a 12-point advantage early in the fourth quarter.
Ex-Jazz swingman C.J. Miles (12 points) hit a couple of long balls to jump start the Cavs, but Utah still held a 100-92 lead with under three minutes to go after a sweet spin move by Millsap.
In the final 2:13, however, the Jazz were 0-4 from the field, 1 for 2 from the free-throw line (Hayward) and turned the ball over twice (Hayward and Foye).
Kyrie Irving, meanwhile, scored five of his 20 points and dished out a nice assist on Ellington's go-ahead dunk with 56.4 seconds left as the Cavaliers finished with a flurry.
It was the second consecutive bitter defeat in the Midwest for the Jazz, who rallied then blew a late lead before losing to Milwaukee on Monday in overtime.
"(We were) just letting them kind of do what they wanted to do," Hayward said. "We turned the ball over too much. We let them frustrate us. We couldn’t get the ball where we wanted to."26 comments on this story
Yet again, they couldn't get the result they wanted, either. And now the Jazz have their two hardest games of this four-game Eastern swing — Friday at Chicago and Saturday at New York.
"It's a tough loss because it's fresh," Corbin said. "We've got a lot of games left. We can't feel sorry for ourselves. We let two go on this trip so far, so we've got to make sure we're ready to get these next two."
"It's tough. We've just got to move forward," Williams added. "We've got to put this game behind us. We're getting closer to full strength. Hopefully, we'll have Big Al back Friday."
They could use a ball or two to roll their way for a change, too.