SALT LAKE CITY — George Santayana, a Spanish-born author, poet and philosopher coined this famous phrase: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”
That’s not good news for the Jazz.
History says the Houston Rockets are going to win this conference semifinal series. So did the eyeball test in the Rockets’ 113-92 Friday win.
Being down 2-1 in a playoff series has usually held dramatic consequences for the Jazz. Throughout their playoff history, they have won 18 series when they went ahead 2-1 and lost just four. But when they fell behind 2-1 in a series, they won six and lost 15.
Friday at Vivint Arena, the Jazz got obliterated.
It has been a wild run of playoff ups and downs. Their theme this year has been “Take Note.” Good choice. They’ve certainly hit both the high and low tones.
In their first-round series with Oklahoma City they led by 12 but trailed by 18 in the opening game, and lost. The Jazz won Game 3 by building their lead to 20. In Game 4 the Jazz won after taking a 21-point lead. In Game 5, the Jazz led by 25 but lost.
In Game 1 against Houston, the Jazz trailed by 27 in a loss. Game 2 saw the Jazz lead by 19, only to see it evaporate, yet they hung on to win.
Momentum swings have been a fact of life in the postseason.
“I think it happens because we’re playing really explosive teams. We’ve played teams capable of scoring in bunches,” said coach Quin Snyder. “I think we’ve been able to sustain some of those and respond, because it’s kind of who we are.”
Right now they’re a team with its momentum missing.
Quickly on Friday the Rockets jumped to an 8-3 lead, convincing Snyder to call timeout 1½ minutes into the game. The Jazz had two air balls and one shot blocked in the first two minutes. They drew a defensive 3-second call. Royce O’Neale lost the ball out of bounds on the way up for a dunk. Joe Ingles had a pass stolen. Donovan Mitchell missed his first three shots and drew a charge.
Shots were rushed, while open ones simply didn’t land. Their shooting percentage was abysmal. The Rockets spent most of the first half doubling the Jazz’s field goal percentage, and nearly their points. Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert had dunks blocked. Several layups rolled off.
Utah looked much like the team in Game 1 that came in fatigued after only 1½ days’ rest.
The Jazz had none of the rhythm, lift or interest they had in winning Game 2, trailing by 30 at the half and falling behind by 38 in the third quarter.
Flat as the Jazz looked, the two-day turnaround can’t come too soon for them. It has been a rough few days for the Jazz and their fans. National media reports have been appearing with regularity, accusing Jazz fans of being rude, crude and backward, triggered by an accusation by Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and some taunting incidents caught on video.
ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith, during an on-air debate, said Mormons weren’t Christians. He quickly clarified in a tweet where he said he “misspoke” and that he knew otherwise.
All the better to fuel playoff hysteria in Utah.
Before Friday’s game, the team unveiled a “Take Note” banner that covered three entire seating sections.
Pleas by team management for civility in the series seemed to have an effect in this game.
Getting the fan base energized hasn’t been a problem this year. The Jazz are pushing some new stuff. First, they’ve unleashed the Donovan Mitchell whirlwind. Meanwhile, the Jazz shrewdly took a new direction by adding “City” uniforms. They have liberally used them, as well as their custom Canyonlands-themed court. They wore the orange multi-shaded uniforms again Friday.
This isn’t your father’s Jazz.
But neither the current Jazz nor your father’s Jazz could lose like this and feel confident about the outcome.