Al Jefferson knew it. There was no use waiting around. No reason to helplessly stand on the hardwood, waiting for referees to declare the inevitable.
After Jefferson slowly walked toward the Jazz’s locker room, head hanging low and shoulders slumped, the call was coldly announced. Paul Millsap’s attempt to tip in a C.J. Miles miss for a game-tying buzzer-beater was too late. It was Phoenix Suns 107, Utah 105. The Jazz had officially blown it.
Storylines Jazz falter in the final secondsIn short » The Jazz drop another close one at home, falling 107-105 to Phoenix on Wednesday.
Key stat » Suns guard Michael Redd scores 15 of his team-high 19 points in the second half.
Key moment » A potential game-tying tip-in by Utah’s Paul Millsap was waved off after falling through the net.
Utah (28-27) dropped another close, winnable game Wednesday at home against a team it should’ve beat. And much like the Jazz’s 104-103 loss last Friday to lowly Sacramento, Utah again failed to step up at EnergySolutions Arena before a sellout crowd of 19,911.
With the defeat, the Jazz threw away an opportunity to gain ground in the crowded Western Conference. Denver surprisingly fell to New Orleans before Utah’s night was done. But instead of pulling within a half game of the tied-for-seventh-place Nuggets and Rockets, the Jazz actually fell backward. Phoenix won the season tiebreaker and jumped Utah in the standings, moving into ninth place, while the Jazz dropped to 10th, 1.5 games out of a postseason spot.
Just 11 contests remain for a Utah team that’s lost five of seven and hasn’t put together a 48-minute win since a March 23 blowout victory against the Nuggets.
The Jazz still aren’t panicking and they’re likely to pocket a home victory Friday against 21-win Golden State. But for the first time since the playoff race began, multiple Utah players acknowledged what’s been obvious during the team’s recent slide: the Jazz are giving away games they can’t afford to lose, and they’re wasting precious time.
"There’s not [a margin of error]. We understand that. We’ve got to make sure everything’s going right for us," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We’re working our way through a lot of things and the guys are giving great effort. But we can’t afford to not take advantage of situations or make mistakes in key times."
Phoenix (28-26) guard Michael Redd was resurrected Wednesday, scoring a team-high 19 points, including 15 and three made 3-pointers during the second half. Suns backup point guard Sebastian Telfair somehow shredded the Jazz for nine points, five rebounds and three assists. Seven Phoenix players hit double-figures in scoring, including all five starters.
And then there was Steve Nash.
The 38-year-old wonder was as smooth as ever when the game mattered most. He scored the Suns’ final four points, sinking a fadeaway 17-foot jump shot along the left baseline that made it 105-103 Phoenix with 14 seconds to go. After Jefferson hit a four-foot jumper to tie the game at 105, Nash squeezed his way through Utah’s defense, leaned in for another 17-footer and swished it.
It was classic Nash. Two-time NBA MVP-type Nash. Late-game savior-type Nash. And the player who refuses to let age dictate his career outplayed five Jazz athletes as a one-man show.
"You get the ball in his hands and you know he is going to get something good for his team. He just gives you that confidence," Corbin said. "He is who he is. He is a great player and he made great plays for them down the stretch. He made two big buckets to get them the win."
Except for his failed tip-in, Millsap delivered again for Utah. He recorded a game-high 25 points, collected eight rebounds, dished out six assists, and added three steals and two blocks.
Millsap nearly replicated Jefferson’s buzzer-beating game-winner March 22 at Sacramento, when Big Al turned Devin Harris’ missed shot into euphoria. But it only took three refs about 10 seconds to review Millsap’s attempt Wednesday. And while Jefferson walked away and the basket was ruled off, Utah was forced to watch a near frame-by-frame replay of its defeat last Friday to the Kings. A desperation shot erased, turning a potential game-saver into another heartbreaker.
"I thought it was good," Millsap said. "I’m looking at the ball, looking at the backboard. I feel like the light flashed when I let it go. So I don’t know. Split-decision."
The Jazz’s Earl Watson started at point guard in place of Harris (left ankle sprain), who initially was a game-time decision. Watson and reserve point guard Jamaal Tinsley combined for seven points on 1-of-5 shooting, five assists and two turnovers. … Jazz guard Raja Bell (left knee) said he won’t be able to participate in basketball-related activity for about two weeks. Bell hopes to return before the season is over, but acknowledged he’s unsure when he’ll be activated. … Ex-Utah guard Ronnie Price didn’t play for Phoenix.
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