After a mostly sleepless night, veterans Raja Bell and Earl Watson decided a frustrating 94-91 loss to Dallas might end up benefiting the Jazz.
It didn’t kill them.
It seems to have strengthened their resolve and improved their self-image.
Still, the same feeling that turned Utah’s locker room into a noticeably unhappy place late Thursday night carried over to Friday morning’s practice.
“We were angry,” Bell said. “We have developed a taste for winning. We know if we do certain things in a game we have a good opportunity to win, no matter who we play and we felt we didn’t do that. We didn’t do that for 48 [minutes] against Dallas.”
After the game, Watson suggested the Jazz squandered a chance to evolve “from a good team to a great team” by playing poorly in the first half and faltering down the stretch against the Mavericks.
That’s why, after the defeat, he sat at his locker for almost 30 minutes, staring at the wall.
“When you’re on good teams, it’s always a big deal when you lose, especially when you lose a big game,” Watson said.
“It was a big game we had a chance to win. So that’s the type of hurt you want to feel, and it still lingers today. It’s tough. At the same time, we know how good we can be.”
The Jazz started against Dallas the same way they started the season, when they lost three of their first four games.
The Mavs, who haven’t scored more than 102 points in any game this season, led 59-50 after shooting 58.5 percent in the first half.
It was the kind of game that could have gotten ugly.
Instead, the Jazz regrouped.
“Everybody is taking pride in what we do,” said C.J. Miles. “So coming into halftime, we knew the way we played was not the way we’ve been winning. Everybody made a conscious effort to dig in.”
Fighting back is something the Jazz did not do in early-season blowouts against the Lakers, Nuggets and Spurs.
“We’re a different team now,” said coach Tyrone Corbin. “You learn from those situations. I think we have learned and grown from it. It’s just — where we are now — we know we have to play a certain way to continue to have a chance to be successful.”
In the second half, the Mavericks scored 35 points — one more than they scored in the second quarter — as the Jazz began contesting shots, disrupting passing lanes and preventing easy baskets.
“You are going to go through some lulls,” Corbin said. “The first couple of games, it might have been the entire game. Now it’s just a little span, maybe a few minutes in the first quarter or a few minutes in the second quarter. … I think we have grown.”
Still, the Jazz let the game slip away.
Tied at 87-87, their defense broke down on consecutive possessions.
After Jason Terry was left alone and made the go-ahead 3-pointer, Shawn Marion got to the basket for an easy layup.
“We have to get better,” Watson said. “For us to be where we want to be, we have to get better [and] grow. Down the stretch, we can’t give up layups. Defensively, we have to lock in. We have to take our mental concentration to a whole [different] level.”
Timberwolves at Jazz
P At EnergySolutions Arena
Tipoff • Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV • Root Sports
Radio • 1320 AM, 1600 FM, 98.7 FM
Records • Jazz 9-5, Timberwolves 6-8
Series • Jazz lead, 62-31
Last meeting • Jazz, 119-104 (March 16)
About the Jazz • They have won five of their past six against Minnesota, going back to 2009-10. … They made 26 of 29 free throws in Thursday’s loss to Dallas. … In the past two games, C.J. Miles averages 18 points, four rebounds and three steals. He has made 12 of 24 shots.
About the Timberwolves • They are the third straight Jazz opponent who will be playing back-to-back games. … They are led by Kevin Love, who averages 25.2 points and 14.5 rebounds. … Rookie Ricky Rubio averages 10.4 points and 8.3 assists. … Opponents shoot only 43.2 percent.