Dallas • Cue the theme music, run the credits. Sunday night was time for happy families to gather around the TV and watch another episode of something they’ve come to count on for prime-time torture.
The Jazz blew a lead, then the Mavericks nearly did, but there was no twist. Through a combination of bad play, bad timing and bad luck, the Jazz lost 113-108, extending their road losing streak to nine games, the longest such run since 1981-82, when a team led by Adrian Dantley and Darrell Griffith lost 17 straight road games from November to February.
History becomes a lot easier to make than the playoffs when you can’t stop losing.
After Utah (34-36) tied the game 69-69 on an Al Jefferson hook shot in the third quarter, the Mavericks went on a 20-2 run. The Jazz closed the game on a 21-9 run, including 15 points in the final 1:15, to cut the deficit to three with seven seconds remaining. But the result was the same as two nights earlier in San Antonio, and two nights before that in Houston: a loss. The effect was no different than it’s been throughout the last two months: The playoffs slipped further out of reach.
“Sometimes in games we start off bad and finish well,” Jefferson said, “sometimes we start off well, finish bad. Try to keep it consistent for 48 minutes.”
With the loss, the Jazz fell into a tie with the Mavericks for ninth place in the Western Confrence. The teams sit two full games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for eighth.
The Jazz hold the tiebreaker over both teams.
Enes Kanter scored 17 points off the bench to lead the Jazz, and Jefferson and Paul Millsap both contributed 15. However, the Jazz got in foul trouble early in the third quarter and couldn’t keep up in what proved to be the pivotal period.
Mike James, the 37-year-old point guard, scored 12 of his season-high 19 points in the quarter while directing a Dallas offense that shot 60 percent from the field and was 7-for-8 from the line.
After trailing just 53-52 at halftime, the Jazz were outscored 30-19 in the third period. They did not score a field goal from the 3:16 mark in the third until 9:38 remained in the fourth.
“We couldn’t make a basket,” Tyrone Corbin said. “We made a couple of defensive mistakes and they made a couple of baskets. We struggled a little bit.”
Then, as the Jazz attempted to get a comeback together, peculiarity struck. Derrick Favors fouled Shawn Marion as he attempted a shot and Enes Kanter blocked the ball into the seats. But Kanter was called for basket interference because he grabbed the rim before blocking the shot, meaning the basket counted. Kanter received a technical foul for the play, and Tyrone Corbin was called for a technical for arguing.
“I didn’t think he grabbed the rim,” Corbin said. “They gave him a basket, a technical, a free throw. It can’t get a five-point play. I asked the guy what’s the deal. He said he grabbed the rim. He did not grab the rim.”
The ol’ five-point play put the Mavericks up 94-75.
The Jazz managed a late-game rally after Corbin cleared the bench. Alec Burks scored 11 points in just 4 minutes and the Jazz cut the Mavericks’ lead to 3 after Burks scored, the Jazz forced a turnover on the inbound play and Gordon Hayward finished a three-point play.
“Much respect and admiration for that group at the end there,” Corbin said, “for just laying it all out there. It was a chance for us to work on a couple of timeout plays. After a timeout play to get something good, I thought they executed very well.”
The Jazz led by as many as seven in the first half, but after going up 42-35, they couldn’t increase the advantage. Marvin Williams missed a dunk and Vince Carter hit a 3-pointer on the other end for a five-point swing.
With 12 games remaining, the Jazz’s playoff hopes only continue to dim. After Sunday, they have lost 12 of their last 15 games. But when Corbin was asked if he believed his team could reach the postseason for the second straight year, he responded, “Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely.”
“We win our share of games,” he said. “Who knows what happens? We’re not going to lay down. We’re going to fight and scratch for every little thing we can get and see where it ends up.”
Storylines Mavericks 113, Jazz 108
R The Jazz lose their ninth consecutive road game.
• Eight of the team’s final 12 games will be played at home.
• Enes Kanter leads the Jazz with 17 points; Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap each add 15.
76ers at Jazz
P EnergySolutions Arena
Records • Utah 34-36, Philadelphia 27-42
Tipoff • Monday, 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Season series • 76ers 1-0
About the Jazz • Utah has lost 12 of its last 15 games but has won three of four at home. ... The Jazz are 2-1 in the second game of back-to-backs when the first game was played on the road. After Sunday’s 113-108 loss to Dallas, they are 0-4 in the first game of such back-to-backs. ... Enes Kanter scored more points Sunday (17) than in the previous four games combined (16).
About the 76ers • Philadelphia scores just 93.4 points per game, the lowest average in the NBA. ... Point guard Jrue Holliday averages 18.6 points per game. ... The Sixers are 5-8 in March but are coming off a 117-113 victory Sunday in Sacramento. ... Philadelphia beat the Jazz 99-93 on Nov. 16.