San Antonio • The Jazz's locker-room door opened Saturday night and C.J. Miles sat hunched down in a chair, studying a box score, while Paul Millsap eyed rows of statistics over his teammates' shoulder.
Utah had fallen 104-89 to the San Antonio Spurs. The Jazz shot just 37.1 percent from the floor, 12.5 percent behind the 3-point line, distributed only 11 assists and scored 21 points or less in the first three quarters.
With 9 minutes, 52 seconds left in the fourth, Utah (1-3) was down by 27 points and the team's third blowout in four games to start the 2011-12 campaign was already in the books.
But what wasn't in the box score were words such as effort, energy and communication. They were the same problems that plagued the Jazz during back-to-back road embarrassments to open the season. And they were the exact issues Utah coach Tyrone Corbin hammered home after watching San Antonio (3-1) run the Jazz out of the AT&T Center via a 20-8 second-quarter run that featured 11 consecutive points from Manu Ginobili, who scored a game-high 23 and drilled 5 of 6 3s.
Al Jefferson led Utah with a team-high 21 points and 11 rebounds, while reserve Josh Howard added 18 points and seven boards.
Corbin knows this will be an at times rough, at times joyous season for the Jazz. Utah's young and rebuilding, but still trying to win games with veterans such as Devin Harris, Millsap and Jefferson. As a result, unpredictability will rein.
But the one thing Corbin's squad can control is its nightly effort. And after seeing the Jazz lose three games by an average of 19 points - all featuring big-time, game-changing runs by the victors - consistent effort could be the one trait that keeps Utah moving forward even if defeats pile up.
"We need to keep searching for who we are. We just need to make sure we understand that we need to keep working to get better," said Corbin, who kept the locker room closed longer than normal for the second game in the three contests.
He added: "We just need to make sure the guys understand that it's a long season. We need to stay together and work."
Sticking together was again a familiar postgame refrain. Reserve forward Derrick Favors said it's the Jazz's primary problem when on-the-court play falls apart, while veteran backup point guard Earl Watson said Utah's shown a tendency to cave when it falls behind on the road.
The Jazz have trailed by double-digits in all four games this season, and Utah had to come back from 13 points down Friday to knock off Philadelphia at home.
"We're a different team on the road. It's obvious, for whatever reason," Watson said. "But you can't sit there and look for the reason why. You have to look for the reason how to win on the road. First, we've got to start getting close."
The Spurs made that goal almost impossible. San Antonio ran a shooting clinic during the first half, burning Utah on rotations that left the Jazz's perimeter naked and allowed the Spurs to drain 80 percent (8 of 10) of their 3s.
After Utah was lifted by its youth movement Friday, Saturday was a replay of blowouts to the: poor defense, a methodical and lethargic offense, and energy that occasionally spurted but never became in vogue.
Now, the Jazz return to Salt Lake City staring at a cushion of 12 of 15 January games at EnergySolutions Arena. But two months of brutal road travel follows, and Corbin's more concerned with his team's progress and evolution than random home wins.
"It's going to be up and down for a while until we get [settled]," he said. "It's just not the way that you lose games - it means something the way we play in a losing ballgame. For the most part, the 48-minute effort that we're looking for, we haven't gotten in the losses."
Spurs 104, Jazz 89
R In short • The Jazz return to form, showing little forward movement in a road blowout to San Antonio.
Key stat • The Spurs sank 80 percent (8 of 10) of their 3-point attempts in the first half.
Key moment • San Antonio uses a 20-8 second-quarter run to pull away.