Utah Jazz postgame wrap: Closing in on real progress
The Los Angeles Lakers in overtime Jan. 11. Dallas on Jan. 19. Toronto in OT Jan. 25. The Clippers on Wednesday, during a tough 107-105 home loss.
Four of Utah's eight defeats this season have been by five points or less. All were winnable games. All swung on crucial last-second plays, with a Jazz team that features four players 21 or younger unable to finish down the stretch.
Utah's made undeniable progress since the 2011-12 season began, while coach Tyrone Corbin's convinced the Jazz are one of the elite eight teams in the Western Conference and have enough talent to make the postseason.
But the close, tough losses are also taking an early toll, and they're eating into the buffer room Utah's built up by playing 14 of its first 20 games at home tied with Philadelphia for the most of any NBA team.
"Nobody's going to feel sorry for us, so we definitely have to have that one [Thursday at Golden State]," Jazz guard Devin Harris said. "We want to keep this thing going."
After the loss to the Clippers, Earl Watson again spent several minutes silently staring into space in front of his locker, while C.J. Miles said he took "nothing" positive away from the game.
"We have a chance again and we have a chance soon. We're right there," Watson said. "For me, I have to play a lot better. I've got to take my game to another level to help the second unit."
Watson on his sprained left ankle: I don't know. We'll see what it feel like tomorrow. It swelled up pretty quickly. My pain tolerance is high, but I just didn't get a chance to get back in the game.
Corbin on coming close but not finishing: You learn from it. You've got to learn what it's going to take for us to get over the hump and we're learning. The most encouraging thing is we're giving ourselves a chance to win them. We're right in there. A mistake here; an offensive rebound; foul that's not timely or miss a couple free throws, those are things we're going to correct. As long as we continue to get the effort and the focus we've been continuing to get from the guys, we'll work through it.
Harris on Chris Paul's dominance and the Clippers' offense: They really had the pick-and-roll going and they had [us] really guessing all night long to try to keep them out of the paint. It was a tough task and he's a good guard. â¦ He had the pull-up going. He was getting inside and his 3-ball was working. Guys were making shots around him, too. When guys are making shots, you can take your pick.
Miles on him and Millsap hitting late 3s: I never feel like it's gotta be less than a second, it's gotta be [down] seven, it's gotta be something crazy. I never feel like we're out of the game.
Not having a letdown against Warriors: It's definitely one of those teams where you can go in there and they can blow you out because of the way they play. We've got to go in there and punch them in the mouth and match their energy
Clippers forward Blake Griffin picked up his fifth foul with 5:54 left in the fourth quarter. But Utah didn't start attacking him until the final stretch of the game.
Josh Howard remained quiet since returning to the Jazz's active lineup. He was held to four points on 2-of-6 shooting in 21:37. Howard acknowledged his left quad was feeling sore before the game.
Solid outings by Gordon Hayward (12 points), Derrick Favors (14 points) and Miles (16 points).
Utah was outrebounded 50-35 and gave up 20 second-chance points. The Jazz shot just 27.3 percent (3 of 11) behind the 3-point line and 72.2 percent (26 of 36) from the free-throw line.
Paul and Griffin combined for 65 points on 29-of-46 shooting, 19 rebounds and 13 assists.
When healthy, Paul's still the best point guard in the NBA.
Radio: Scheduled to appear on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone at 8:55 a.m. Thursday to discuss the Clippers and Warriors games.Brian T. SmithTwitter: @tribjazz
See more about comments here.