MEXICO CITY — Nearly 2,000 miles away from the mountains in Salt Lake City, members of the Utah Jazz found themselves being warmly received from the sellout crowd of 20,011 fans at Arena Ciudad de Mexico.
Even with the positive fanfare, the Jazz suffered a 96-89 loss to the Orlando Magic as part of the NBA Mexico City Games 2018 on Saturday.
For Utah, the trip marked the franchise’s first regular season matchup in Mexico City. The Jazz had played three previous preseason contests in Mexico City, with Oct. 5, 2003, being the most recent matchup in a 90-85 victory against the Dallas Mavericks in front of 20,092 fans, but nothing when it counted.
This one certainly did, though.
“It’s a great experience to be here to play, and I wish we would’ve played better and won, but we’re happy we had the opportunity to play in Mexico City,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder.
The Jazz dropped to 14-16 on the season with the latest loss after leading for much of the game before allowing a 41-point fourth quarter from Orlando.
“You’ve got to give them credit because they’re a good team with some good players, but to score 41 points in the fourth quarter, that’s unacceptable,” said Jazz forward Derrick Favors, who posted 21 points and eight rebounds. “We’ve just got to figure that out.”
Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 24 points on 8-for-21 shooting as the Jazz shot just 31.5 percent from the field as a team, nearly matching their season-low of 31.2 percent from the 50-point loss in Dallas on Nov. 14.
The Jazz went up by as many as 11 in the third quarter, even leading 59-55 entering the fourth, before getting outscored 41-30 in the last 12 minutes. Evan Fournier led the Magic with 24 points and seven rebounds, but Terrence Ross burned the Jazz with 10 of his 19 points in the fourth off the bench.
“We had a few breakdowns,” Snyder said of the fourth quarter. “I thought we were solid defensively for most of the game and executed. There was a culmination of a few things that we broke down on, and a few of their guys, Ross in particular and Fournier, were making plays.”
Orlando swept the Mexico City Games, going 2-0, after also beating the Chicago Bulls Thursday night, 97-91. Having that extra time to adjust to the higher elevation certainly didn’t hurt, as Mexico City is 7,382 feet above sea level compared to Salt Lake City’s average elevation of nearly 4,300 feet; the higher altitude made it tougher to breathe.
Favors said he could certainly feel the difference on the court, especially late in the game, but refused to couple that with a definitive correlation to Jazz’s 23.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
“I think we definitely felt the altitude a little bit, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse, though,” Favors said. “I think both teams felt it. It could’ve affected our shooting, but you’ll never know, but we don’t want to use that as an excuse.”
Ricky Rubio was extremely popular among the Mexican media for his ability to speak Spanish. Rubio went 3-for-14 with 15 points and four assists while Rudy Gobert grabbed 13 boards with six points.
Utah forced 22 turnovers on the night and held the Magic to 38.6 percent shooting through three quarters but know they have to tighten up for Monday night’s contest in Houston.
“A lot of it was spacing … turnovers,” Mitchell said. “I think a lot of it is just focus.”