Utah Jazz rally falls short as they lose 96-86 in Memphis
Memphis • Sitting at his locker, Gordon Hayward looked over the scratches and bruises on his arms. On Wednesday, the Jazz's captain added another mark to his body, this one from diving on the floor for a loose ball as he helped bring his team back from 18 points down to tie the game.
The abrasions will eventually fade and maybe eventually so will the sting of this season. But after the final buzzer sounded at FedExForum, Hayward found himself once again discussing defeat's agony.
"It's still a loss to me," the Jazz's co-captain said after falling 96-86 to the Memphis Grizzlies. "We're getting better as a team, and I'm glad we competed, but we have to be able to do it for the whole 48 minutes."
For Hayward and the Jazz, the Wednesday's first 24 were the problem. Utah looked very much like the team that had just suffered a 38-point blowout loss in Houston as it stumbled through the first two quarters in Memphis.
Grizzlies guard Courtney Lee hit the game's first bucket and the Jazz never once held a lead. Behind the powerful duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, Memphis quickly built up a double-digit lead and steadily increased its advantage to 18 just before halftime.
Randolph finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds; Gasol had 20 and 10.
Hayward, meanwhile, hit just one of his eight first-half shots.
But as they emerged from the locker room, the Jazz showed a renewed energy.
"This team has a lot of character, man," coach Ty Corbin said. "We don't like being embarrassed. We thought they were the aggressors in the first half. We wanted to make sure we came out there and whatever happens, lay everything you got on the line."
Tired of getting beaten down in the half court by Memphis, Utah got out and ran. An Enes Kanter layup with about six minutes to go in the third cut the Memphis lead to 3. But with center Derrick Favors in foul trouble, the Grizzlies took advantage.
"I was trying to match the physicality. I tried to match it but the calls didn't go my way," said Favors, who scored six points and grabbed eight rebounds, and had to watch as Memphis built up another double-digit lead.
The Jazz, however, had one more push left.
Hayward, who struggled shooting in the first half, hit his first six attempts in the second half en route to 16 points. Backup guard Alec Burks, meanwhile, scored seven of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Jazz mounted another comeback.
With just under six minutes to play, Hayward dove to the floor for a loose ball, poking it out across halfcourt for Burks for a fast-break layup that tied the game at 84.
With a chance to take the lead, point guard Diante Garrett threw a lazy pass that was intercepted by Randolph.
Kanter missed a shot. Garrett missed an open look at the rim.
Each time, Memphis scored on the other end.
"We had it there," Hayward said. "We were rolling. But it's tough to come back on the road and continue, especially against a team like this that's been together and knows how to win games."
After fighting for a playoff spot in each of his first three seasons in Utah, Hayward finds himself steering a young Jazz team toward the lottery. The loss was the Jazz's 11th in 12 tries, giving them a 22-47 record the fourth-worst in the NBA.
"You can't just dwell on the negative things," Hayward said. "You'll drive yourself crazy."
"We all hate losing," said rookie Trey Burke, who this time last year was at Michigan preparing for a tournament run that would go all the way to the national title game. "It's an adjustment for me. I'm trying to stay positive as much as possible."
• Trey Burke, Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward score 16 points each to pace the Jazz.
• With the game tied at 84, Memphis closes the final 5:39 on a 12-2 run.
• The Jazz commit 17 turnovers, leading to 23 points for the Grizzlies.