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Jazz search for answers after 111-85 blowout by Thunder

Published February 16, 2012 12:25 pm

"I don't know that we know who we are as a team," says Raja Bell.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Oklahoma City • By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, no one moved. Al Jefferson never got off the bench. Neither did Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward or Paul Millsap. The Jazz's five starters were stuck to their seats Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, silently staring and helplessly watching as the NBA's best team blitzed away at will, hammering home shots and shredding Utah apart.

Final score: 111-85, Oklahoma City Thunder.

Final outcome: even worse.

Jazz-Thunder box score: http://bit.ly/AfP1IE

After watching the Jazz (14-14) fail to show up for the second consecutive game, several players said a team that's lost seven of nine still lacks an identity nearly midway through an unforgiving lockout-shortened campaign and is playing its worst basketball of the year at the worst possible time.

The self-criticism wasn't limited to post-blowout interviews. With Utah down 44-33 to the Thunder late in the second quarter, Bell was overheard near the scorer's table talking to reserve point guard Earl Watson, pounding home the Jazz's poor execution.

"We consistently do dumb [crap]," Bell said. "We can't even help it."

After watching his team start 1 of 16 from the field, shoot 35.6 percent from the floor overall and allow OKC (22-6) to pile on for a 27-point lead late in the fourth, Bell didn't back down from his critique. In fact, he repeated to a reporter what he told Watson nearly word for word.

"I make no mistake about it: I did not think we played the way we needed [Tuesday] to win," said Bell, who acknowledged he's concerned an unproven Utah squad may have become carried away with its surprising 9-4 start and taken its initial success for granted.

"I don't know that we know who we are as a team," Bell said.

Jefferson stated before Utah left for its only back-to-back-to-back road trip of the season the Jazz had to return to Salt Lake City with a winning record. Not only did Utah become average for the first time since Jan. 3, but the Jazz produced the same abysmal effort Tuesday they put forth Monday during a road loss to a 5-23 New Orleans team.

After going 1-2 on their journey and failing to build off a strong win Sunday at Memphis, Utah has nosedived to reach a view it hasn't seen since starting the season 1-3 and suffering three road blowouts by an average of 19 points. Morale is low. Key players are frustrated, calling out their team's overall effort and execution. And some are openly wondering how the Jazz ever got to this point in the first place.

"We've got to figure out what the problem is, first," Millsap said. "Obviously we don't know what the problem is, so we've just got to figure that out. Once we figure that out, we better do something about it."

He added: "It just feels all bad, man. It's not a good feeling at all. We want to try to stay positive as much as possible. But things are just not going right right now."

Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin cautioned against overreacting and said he wasn't overly concerned about his team's outing, pointing out Utah was on the tail end of its back-to-back-to-back and bound to be exhausted.

"Everybody is a little tired and we ran out of gas," Corbin said. "They are a good ballclub. We are OK and we will be ready to go. We will get ourselves back together, get some rest and we will be fine."

Given the opportunity to pin the Jazz's problems on tired legs, players such as Harris, Hayward and reserve forward C.J. Miles declined. Miles pointed out that, thanks to his team not showing up Monday against the Hornets, Corbin pulled Utah's starters late in the third and kept everyone but Hayward on the bench throughout the fourth. Thus, by the time all five Jazz starters were kept on the bench during the entire final period against OKC, it was clear Utah's problems had everything to do with self-created issues and little to do with being road weary.

"You try to do the right thing. But if stuff breaks down, guys get a little frustrated. And … that compounds to the next thing and then it snowballs," Miles said. "And then you see one guy's shoulders drop and you see another guy's shoulders drop and then you see another."

The shoulders kept dropping. Utah's deficit kept rising. And while the Jazz know they can still catch themselves and return to form, they didn't back away from the fact they're rapidly falling downward.

"It's back to the drawing board," Harris said.

bsmith@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz

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Storylines

R In short • The Jazz go 1-2 on their back-to-back-to-back trip and are blown out by Oklahoma City.

Key stat • Utah's starters combine for zero minutes and zero points in the fourth quarter.

Key moment • The Thunder use a 20-7 third-quarter run to put the Jazz away. Thunder 111, Jazz 85

FG FT Reb

Utah Min M-A M-A O-T A PF Pts

GHayward 16:21 0-6 0-0 1-2 1 0 0

Millsap 24:18 4-9 2-2 3-8 3 2 10

Jefferson 27:56 7-19 1-1 3-5 0 3 15

Harris 15:10 2-5 1-2 0-1 1 5 6

Bell 24:58 3-6 3-3 0-1 1 1 10

Favors 17:30 4-7 5-7 2-3 0 0 13

Howard 18:44 3-10 0-0 1-5 0 1 6

Watson 27:39 2-7 0-0 1-2 6 3 4

Burks 19:22 3-9 4-6 2-4 1 1 10

Kanter 20:04 3-7 1-1 6-6 0 2 7

Miles 16:35 1-4 0-0 0-3 2 2 3

Evans 6:12 0-0 1-2 0-1 1 0 1

Tinsley 5:11 0-1 0-0 0-1 1 1 0

Totals 240:00 32-90 18-24 19-42 17 21 85

Percentages: FG .356, FT .750. 3-Point Goals: 3-13, .231 (Bell 1-2, Harris 1-2, Miles 1-2, G.Hayward 0-1, Howard 0-2, Watson 0-4). Team Rebounds: 9. Team Turnovers: 13 (19 PTS). Blocked Shots: 3 (Evans, Favors, Jefferson). Turnovers: 12 (G.Hayward 3, Burks 2, Bell, Howard, Kanter, Miles, Millsap, Tinsley, Watson). Steals: 7 (Miles 2, Bell, Burks, Favors, G.Hayward, Millsap). Technical Fouls: Defensive three second, 5:12 first.

FG FT Reb

OK C Min M-A M-A O-T A PF Pts

Durant 29:48 8-14 5-5 0-6 1 2 21

Ibaka 25:01 7-8 2-5 4-10 0 2 16

Perkins 21:35 0-2 1-2 2-7 6 1 1

Westbrook 23:24 6-11 4-7 2-5 2 4 16

Cook 27:35 3-9 0-0 0-2 0 2 8

Harden 29:35 6-9 7-8 0-4 5 1 22

Collison 22:48 1-2 1-2 1-4 1 5 3

Mohammed 17:34 3-7 2-2 1-2 1 2 8

Jackson 24:36 2-5 0-2 1-3 8 0 4

Aldrich 5:11 2-4 0-0 2-4 0 1 4

LHayward 5:11 1-2 0-0 0-1 0 1 2

Reid 3:51 2-2 0-0 1-1 0 0 4

Ivey 3:51 1-2 0-1 0-0 0 0 2

Totals 240:00 42-77 22-34 14-49 24 21 111

Percentages: FG .545, FT .647. 3-Point Goals: 5-14, .357 (Harden 3-5, Cook 2-7, Durant 0-1, Westbrook 0-1). Team Rebounds: 11. Team Turnovers: 15 (11 PTS). Blocked Shots: 13 (Ibaka 6, Mohammed 3, Durant 2, Cook, Perkins). Turnovers: 14 (Westbrook 4, Durant 3, Harden 3, Cook, Jackson, Mohammed, Reid). Steals: 8 (Cook 2, Jackson 2, Collison, Durant, Mohammed, Perkins). Technical Fouls: Westbrook, 8:03 third.

Utah 19 20 24 22 — 85

Oklahoma City 25 28 26 32 — 111

Attendance • 18,203

Time • 2:12.

Officials • Jason Phillips, Kane Fitzgerald, Eric Dalen.