Sporadic play hurts Jazz
Play great one quarter, play sloppy the next.
Defend effectively for part of a game, defend terribly in the next juncture.
The book reads something like the above for the Utah Jazz in Ty Corbin's short tenure. And it definitely played out like that on Thursday night against the Denver Nuggets.
Unfortunately for Utah, the good points weren't enough. In a league where you have to play well for 48 minutes to get wins, the Jazz haven't been nearly consistent enough in that regard over the past month.
The Nuggets are the latest team to prove this to Utah, defeating the Jazz 103-101 on Thursday night before a national TNT audience when Andrei Kirilenko missed an open dunk that could've tied the game and sent things into overtime.
Denver made all of the big shots down the stretch. The Jazz turned it over when it mattered the most. When Utah had its chances to pull away in the fourth quarter, it didn't take advantage. When the Nuggets had chances to make free throws in the final moments, they cashed in.
"They made the big plays down the stretch," Jazz guard Devin Harris said. "They got the stops they needed. They made the big shots."
It's the difference between having experience, which Denver has with George Karl, Nene and Kenyon Martin, and having an entirely new lineup that doesn't quite know how to get it done in crunch time.
Even with the loss of superstar Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggets still have strong leadership. The Jazz aren't quite as fortunate. The dagger was put in by Aaron Afflalo, a terrific role player for Denver who's been making big shots and big plays all season.
And it was typical on this play that the Jazz completely missed the defensive rotation, Afflalo was left wide open and his shot put Denver up 102-98, and effectively put the game out of reach.
It all goes back to consistency. Utah played its best in the third quarter, coming up with defensive stops, forcing turnovers and running a smooth offense that produced points. Defensively, Utah surrendered just 16 points in the third period. But once the Nuggets found their footing, they imposed their will, clawed their way back into the game and took over in crunch time.
"We're playing way better," Kirilenko said. "We're still very inconsistent, but we're getting better. It just takes a little bit more time, I suppose."
• Andrei Kirilenko misses the potential game-tying layup at the buzzer
• Utah loses control in the fourth quarter
• Denver rallies for the win