Utah Jazz: Players stress building off Friday's improvements
Dallas • It was an encouraging performance, but another loss. Jazz players said Saturday that if their strong showing the night before against the San Antonio Spurs can be meaningful in any way, they will have to match it Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks.
"I thought we showed more fight in us," Gordon Hayward said. "We needed to do that. It's about time we did that. "
But the key for Hayward was what came next: "We'll see how we play tomorrow."
The 104-97 loss was the Jazz's 11th in their last 14 games and their eighth on the road since the All-Star Break. Despite the continuing slide, there was a real sense of positivity surrounding the Jazz following the game and into Saturday. If they can build off that performance in the final 13 games of the season, maybe there is hope they can sneak back into the playoff picture.
Hayward said the most frustrating part of the last five weeks for the Jazz has been "letting games slip away from us at the end and then, obviously, just not bringing enough effort all the time."
Friday's game did slip away from the Jazz. But for the first time in weeks, the effort couldn't be questioned.
But if the Jazz don't match Friday's intensity Sunday, coach Tyrone Corbin said, it would negate whatever positives the team took from the loss.
"Whether you lose the game or win the game, to not play with that kind of effort would be disappointing," he said.
The Jazz were in apparent disarray before Friday. Corbin's comments about his team had grown more critical and direct. Effort was a major concern, and with seven players headed for free agency, Corbin acknowledged players may have other interests.
But any concerns that the Jazz simply had pulled up lame 13 paces from the finish line were shelved temporarily after Friday.
"The feeling we have," Corbin said, "is that if we bottle that up the rest of the way, we'll be just fine. Win, lose or draw, we'll feel better about how we're playing and who we are because of the effort you get on the floor."
After falling behind by 14 to the Spurs, the Jazz did not relinquish the lead until the fourth quarter, then fought back to force overtime on a 3-pointer by Marvin Williams.
In the Jazz locker room after the game, Mo Williams was doing quick math. The Jazz have eight games at home, where they are significantly better than on the road. If they win all of those, that would give the Jazz 42 wins.
"We've got to steal a couple on the road," he said. "Obviously, we're going to need some help."
Even with Friday's loss, the Jazz stayed 1Â½ games back of the eighth spot because the Washington Wizards rallied from a double-digit deficit to beat the Lakers. But things still got more muddled for the Jazz. Thanks to their mounting losses, both Portland and Dallas moved within one game of Utah.
Hayward, who helped the Jazz to the playoffs last season, said the experience would be important for this Jazz team, even if most of the players may scatter in free agency.
"The intensity that it brings," he said. "The atmosphere that it brings. Can't teach experience. It's something [that] would be good for all of us."
• The Jazz remain 1Â½ games out of eighth in the Western Conference playoff chase.
• Utah is just one game up on Portland and Dallas, Sunday's opponent.
• The Jazz have lost eight straight games on the road since Feb. 13.
Jazz at Mavericks
P At American Airlines Center (Dallas)
Tipoff • Sunday, 5:30 p.m.
TV • ROOT
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Utah 34-35; Dallas 33-36
Season series • Jazz 2-0
About the Jazz • The Jazz defeated the Mavericks 113-94 to open the season on Oct. 31 and again on Jan. 7, 100-94. They have not played in Dallas this season. ... The Jazz have not won on the road since Feb. 13. ... Al Jefferson scored 18 points and added 13 rebounds in Friday's loss to the Spurs, giving him double-doubles in three straight games. His longest streak of the year is five.
About the Mavericks • Dallas is one game behind the Jazz for ninth in the Western Conference. ... The Mavs have won seven of their last 10 games, including Friday's win over Boston. ... O.J. Mayo leads Dallas with 16.6 points per game.