Utah Jazz: Vanishing act
With a 10-point lead over the Orlando Magic at halftime Saturday night, the Jazz apparently decided to pack their bags and catch an early flight to Boston for the start of their annual pre-Christmas trip Monday against the Celtics.
How else to explain the carnage in the third quarter at EnergySolutions Arena? The Jazz gave up a 16-1 run out of halftime, were routed 34-12 in the quarter and ended up with a 103-94 lump of coal.
"They came out and killed us in the third quarter," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We started off and we couldn't stop them right from the beginning. They went right at us and we didn't seem to have any life to try to compete against them."
The Jazz (15-10) lost only four times at home last season - going 37-4 - but matched that total in only 14 home games this season after Saturday's loss. They also squandered any chance to carry momentum into their five-game trip beginning Monday.
Playing the second game of a back-to-back set, Orlando throttled the Jazz despite playing without star center Dwight Howard, who missed the first game of his five-year career after leaving Friday's loss to Phoenix with a sore left knee.
"It looked like we were happy he didn't play, but didn't seem to take advantage of it," Sloan said, "and they came out and they were happy to do everything they could to win the ballgame."
The Magic went into the third quarter trailing 56-46 and ended it with a 12-point lead. Keith Bogans, Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu each hit a three-pointer to start while the Jazz went 0-for-6, missed four three-pointers and committed two turnovers.
Sloan watched the unfolding disaster for more than five minutes before calling timeout after Nelson pulled up on the fast break and hit a 22-footer to make it 62-57 with 6:43 left.
"What was I going to tell them? To play harder?" Sloan said. "That's like giving a kid a handful of candy. You've got to learn how to deal with it yourself instead of somebody handing you a handful of candy. You've got to fight through some of that. I didn't feel like I was going to feed them.
"I told them at halftime, 'We've got to come out stronger in the third quarter,' and maybe I shouldn't have said anything. You're always reluctant sometimes to say too much because if they can't hear some of the stuff you said earlier, you don't expect them to hear you later on."
The quarter went from bad to worse as Williams was stripped twice, leading to a layup for Bogans and trip to the line for Nelson. Williams was so frustrated, he slapped a towel out of a ballboy's hands coming to the bench for a timeout.
"I've just got to get back to where I can take over games and I don't think I'm doing that," said Williams, who finished with 17 points, 11 assists and five turnovers. "I think guys when they see me out there on the floor, especially in the fourth, they kind of expect that."
The Magic drilled 14 of 27 three-pointers, including nine in the second half.
Rashard Lewis led with 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting while Turkoglu added 23 and Jameer Nelson had 17, even banking in a running three-pointer to beat the shot clock in the fourth.
The Jazz, by contrast, committed 22 turnovers and were outscored 30-24 in the paint even with Howard missing. Mehmet Okur went 2-for-12 and Morris Almond, starting for the first time with Ronnie Brewer attending a funeral, was 2-for-8 with three turnovers.
As the Jazz closed within six (and later five) points down the stretch, Orlando answered as Bogans connected on a three-pointer and Lewis posted up Paul Millsap and scored as part of a three-point play. Lewis also slammed home a Turkoglu miss with 2:18 left.
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy called it "one of the best wins I've ever been a part of." The Jazz, meanwhile, could only look ahead to playing the defending champion Celtics, who have won 14 games in a row. "They're on a quest to repeat," Williams said.
IN SHORT: Orlando throttles the Jazz 34-12 in the third quarter. Utah loses for the fourth time at home this season.
* KEY MOMENT: Jameer Nelson hits a jumper on the fast break to cap a 16-1 run out of halftime for the Magic.
* KEY STAT: The Jazz were outscored 30-24 in the paint even with Orlando's Dwight Howard missing the game.