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Utah Jazz give up big lead in loss to Atlanta Hawks

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Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Louis Williams (3) is challenged by Utah Jazz power forward Derrick Favors, top, and point guard Earl Watson (11) during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

By Bill Oram

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jan 11 2013 10:31PM
Updated Jan 12, 2013 12:24AM

Atlanta • The Jazz had just built a 15-point lead. Randy Foye’s season-high sixth 3-pointer of the game was as perfect as the rest. As the guard trotted down the court, or in any of the seemingly innocuous moments that followed, something began to change for the Utah Jazz.

Aggressive and poised for most of the night, they became casual. Al Jefferson’s elegant footwork betrayed him; he traveled. Derrick Favors’ youthful aggression got the better of him; he charged.

Like the snow falling at home, the errors wouldn’t stop. The Jazz couldn’t dig themselves out of 14 minutes of self-inflicted damage, and drifted from lazy through lousy to another loss, 103-95 to the Atlanta Hawks, one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams.

"We thought the game was over," Tyrone Corbin said bitterly after watching his team give up a 7-0 run in the final 54 seconds.

In what was expected to be Marvin Williams’ first game back at Philips Arena before doctors told him to sit out this road trip with an inflamed right knee, the Jazz (19-19) had to suffer as the man they traded for him, Devin Harris, was their greatest nuisance.

The point guard, in his second game back with the Hawks after missing 11 with a foot injury, scored 12 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer that completed the Hawks’ comeback and tied the game at 85 with 5:45 remaining.

"Good game for Devin," Jefferson said. "Glad to see him back from his injury, glad to see him have a great game, but it didn’t matter."

Jefferson sat at his locker. Boisterous after wins, angry and dismissive after losses, to find subtlety in the Jazz center’s emotions is rare.

But on Friday he rubbed his face. He held long poses. Index finger to the temple, middle finger pressing the nose. He cupped his face with two hands and stared through spread fingers, chasing the win that just slipped through them.

When he spoke, it was softly, and reporters leaned close, as if a secret were being told.

"It’s just a game," he said, "that we were supposed to win."

Jefferson scored 23 points to complement Foye’s 25. Paul Millsap was splendid: 20 points, 13 rebounds, five assists.

But in a game where Corbin opted to play his starters even more than usual — limiting second-unit regulars Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks to less than 30 minutes combined — something broke.

Foye pointed to the turnovers at the end of the third quarter. He contributed one of the five.

"We turned the ball over," he said, "and you kind of could see the momentum swing into the fourth quarter."

They were outscored 35-19 in the final period, but still were within one entering the final minute. However, Millsap and Foye both missed shots in the lane and the Hawks scored on three straight possessions to steal the win.

After shooting 52.6 percent from the field through the first three quarters, the Jazz made just 31.6 percent of their shots in the fourth.

Their ball movement, which was so good and earned them 25 assists in the first three quarters, halted. The offense became entry pass, then shot. Often falling away from the basket. They added just four more assists to their total in the fourth quarter.

"We took too many chances," Corbin said, "made too many wrong plays, and it cost us the ballgame."

Corbin talks often about lessons, even the ones it seems his team should have learned by now. But, he said, it’s critical they learn from their most recent loss.

"If you figure out what cost you the ballgame and you move on," he said, "it’s one loss. But it can turn into more than one. This team has shown a lot of resilience all year, we bounce back."

Then he said what was plainly obvious, but needed to be said.

"And this is one game we need to bounce back from."

boram@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz

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