Kragthorpe: Utah Jazz waste opportunity to beat L.A. Lakers
In those frantic, final seconds Wednesday night when Gordon Hayward kept dribbling and searching for a receiver, all the rewards the Jazz ever could have wanted were right there for the taking.
Having battled their rivals through four quarters and an overtime period, only two weeks after being embarrassed by the Los Angeles Lakers in the season opener, the Jazz trailed by one point. They were positioned to deliver the signature victory of coach Tyrone Corbin's career.
Instead, they blew it, every way imaginable.
Corbin should have called a timeout.
Hayward should have pulled up and shot a short jumper in the lane.
Al Jefferson should have faked, instead of launching a shot that Andrew Bynum easily blocked.
The Jazz should have won this game, plain and simple.
Instead, they trudged off the EnergySolutions Arena floor as 90-87 losers, having missed a terrific opportunity to validate their formerly perfect home-court record and build a six-game winning streak overall.
Before the game, Corbin said, "It'll be a good test to see how much we've grown and where we go from here."
Undoubtedly, this team has come a long way since Dec. 27 in Los Angeles. The Jazz outworked and outplayed L.A. for long stretches, which Corbin found very encouraging. Yet they clearly let this one get away and not just at the very end.
That's always a good place to start, though.
For all of the damage that Kobe Bryant did during a 40-point night, he missed a short shot in the lane and gave the Jazz a last chance with 16 seconds left, down 88-87. Josh Howard rebounded the ball, then Hayward dribbled down the right side.
Corbin thought about a timeout, but let Hayward go. "I thought we had 'em on [their] heels," Corbin said.
Hayward looked for Paul Millsap, which was a good idea, considering Millsap already had scored 29 points. But with Millsap covered, Hayward drove the lane.
"It was kind of a scramble situation; we didn't know what we were running," Hayward said.
So he passed to Jefferson just to the left of the lane, which was not a good idea, considering Jefferson was 5 for 16 from the field at that moment and 7 for 32 in two games against the Lakers.
Jefferson actually liked his chances, ever so briefly, but 7-foot Andrew Bynum "recovered real well and blocked it," Jefferson said, after Bynum's fifth block of the night.
The Jazz still had one final shot after Bryant's two free throws with seven-tenths of a second left, but Bryant blocked Devin Harris' desperate attempt.
As sad as the ending was, the Jazz gave away this game in so many other ways. One night after scoring 113 points against Cleveland, their offensive performance could not match their own defensive effort. They held the Lakers to 12 points in the fourth quarter, but needed a rally just to force overtime, having shot 38 percent and scored 78 points through 48 minutes.
The Jazz showed early signs of dominating that period, only to give up Pau Gasol's first 3-pointer of the season and later fall behind.
And then their last two shots barely left the hands of Jefferson and Harris before being blocked into oblivion.
So for all their progress, this was a missed opportunity for the Jazz (6-4). "We're coming," Corbin said. "We're getting better."
That's true, considering they lost by 25 points to the Lakers without Bynum in the opener. They appeared lost and overwhelmed all night in Los Angeles. At home, they were scattered and confused only at the end, but that was enough to keep them from winning.