The Jazz received some much-needed assistance in the standings Monday night.
Helping themselves proved to be another issue entirely.
Soon after the Jazz benefited from the Los Angeles Lakers’ losing in Phoenix, they gave the gift right back with a 90-83 loss to New York at EnergySolutions Arena. Considering the circumstances, this clearly was one of their most inexcusable defeats of the season, which is saying something.
The Jazz missed eight consecutive shots in the last three minutes of a tight game before a meaningless basket elevated them to 38.2 percent for the game.
That was not their only failing. The Jazz committed too many turnovers, allowed too many offensive rebounds and generally played uninspired basketball at a critical stage of the season.
This was inexplicable, really. And now the Jazz (34-33) are in danger of falling below .500 and pretty much out of the Western Conference playoff picture if they lose all three games on a trip that starts Wednesday in Houston.
Thanks to some combination of Kobe Bryant’s ankle injury and Phoenix’s efficiency, the Lakers lost on the road. So in order to move ahead of the Lakers and into eighth place in the Western Conference (by percentage points), all the Jazz had to do was beat the tired, injured Knicks.
But nothing comes easily for the Jazz, that’s for sure.
They fell behind by eight points in the last five minutes before rallying and having a chance to tie the game on a Mo Williams 3-pointer with 3 minutes remaining. But he missed, and it would be a long time before the Jazz scored again — on a Paul Millsap rebound basket with 7 seconds left and the outcome decided.
The Knicks stumbled into town having lost four straight games on a trip that started right after they beat the Jazz 113-84 in New York on March 9. What’s more, star forward Carmelo Anthony remained out with a knee injury.
Before the game, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin was determined to have a good start. “We’ve got to make sure we come out and try to jump them and be on them for 48 minutes,” he said.
That certainly did not happen.
The Jazz looked sluggish until the final minute of the first half. That’s when Williams gave them some life with an outstanding sequence, beginning with his steal and assist to Gordon Hayward for a layup and concluding with his 19-foot jump shot at the buzzer for a 44-42 lead.
After a wobbly start to the third quarter, the Jazz seemed ready to take control as they built a six-point lead. But they gave it all back and trailed 66-63 going into the final period.
Seemingly every time the Jazz made a move, they regressed. Derrick Favors missed seven free throws in the game and, just as egregiously, fouled New York’s Steve Novak on a 3-point attempt midway through the fourth quarter, while the Knicks were building an 82-74 lead.
The Jazz now trail No. 7 Houston by two games in the West. They open a three-game Texas swing Wednesday night against the Rockets in a game they absolutely have to win.
Of course, the Jazz were saying the same thing about Monday’s game.