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Monson: Jazz's close loss makes it no less painful

Published May 8, 2010 11:17 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The end was symbolic of the entirety of Game 3 here, a finish that was memorable for all who were fortunate enough to have watched it, and regretfully unforgettable for the team that lost it.

The Jazz are down 3-0 against the Lakers now, falling 111-110 on Saturday night, and ... well, nobody needs to bring up the fact that no team has ever hauled itself out of the gravitational pull of that black hole of a deficit to win a series. The Jazz, then, are now effectively sucked out of the playoff universe.

A brutal truth.

But here's an undeniable truth to go alongside it: The Jazz gave themselves a great chance to win this game, both in the adjustments they made from two previous losses in Los Angeles, and in the final four seconds, when the whole thing was up for grabs.

Whether that makes them feel worse or better depends on their individual points of view. Deron Williams once said that losing feels a whole lot worse than winning feels good, so we know his position on the matter.

"It's a tough loss, period," he said Saturday night.

Sloan's thought: "It's not a matter of life or death."

It is, of course, much more important than that.

Let's relive that ending -- because there is no other choice.

With the Jazz trailing by one, with 4.4 seconds left, C.J. Miles inbounded the ball to Williams, who positioned himself for a straightaway jumper. He measured, elevated, fired and ... missed. "It was a decent shot," Sloan said afterward. That was only the beginning of the end.

Wesley Matthews swooped in, tipping the ball in time to still grab victory. The ball bounced long and dropped away.

Utah's hopes dropped away with it.

On a night when the Jazz improved their offensive execution, shooting nearly 50 percent, they could not convert either of two open attempts at the end to save themselves.

"We kept fighting and battling," Sloan said. "We had to do the job. We just came up a little short."

One small sliver of a point short.

Everybody had waited to see the changes that had to come over the Jazz in order for them to have any kind of opportunity to beat the Lakers.

The checklist for adjusting, and the results, went something like this:

» Meet the taller Lakers early at the defensive end, pushing them farther away from the basket.

The Jazz were successful at that, allowing Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom to score just 22 points between them. The problem was, they gave up 40 points to Derek Fisher and Ron Artest.

» Run the offense more precisely, but enable Williams to break out to create as he sees fit.

Williams did so, repeatedly finding Kyle Korver, who made 9 of 10 shots for 20 points, and scoring 28 himself but missing the two points that mattered most.

» Bring the plasma-regenerated Andrei Kirilenko out of cold storage as additional help against Kobe Bryant, Gasol and Odom.

Kirilenko played reasonably well, scoring eight points and hauling in six rebounds, but nobody could stop Bryant, who went for 35.

» Hit the boards harder.

After getting hammered by 18 in Game 2, the Jazz had the edge this time, 42-39.

» Hope Kyrylo Fesenko contributes more here than he did in L.A.

Who are we trying to kid?

» Hope the home court would make the difference, overall.

It didn't.

The ultimate result?

The marker board upon which Phil Jackson writes the number of playoff wins left until a Laker championship is now down to nine.

The marker board in the Jazz's minds, upon which they write the number of games until they leave on their summer vacations is one.

A bitter memory of an unforgettable ending trailing behind them.

GORDON MONSON

hosts the "Monson and Graham Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at

gmonson@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">gmonson@sltrib.com

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