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Utah Jazz get another unhappy ending in loss to Bulls

Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson, right, is pressured by Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, March 8, 2013, in Chicago. The Bulls won 89-88. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

By Bill Oram

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Mar 08 2013 10:52PM
Updated Mar 9, 2013 12:38AM

Chicago • The Utah Jazz don’t have an open roster spot, but Misery has signed on with this team and is their most reliable clutch performer.

This time the opponent was the Chicago Bulls, their weapon of choice was a Marco Belinelli 3-pointer. But the rest? It felt exactly the same.

With reports circulating that Utah is on the verge of signing D-League standout Travis Leslie, the Jazz lost their third game on this road trip after they held leads in the final minute in all three. But after an overtime loss in Milwaukee and a missed layup in Cleveland, the storyline for the Jazz (32-30), as they struggle to remain playoff relevant, borders on the absurd.

"They didn’t draw that up," Al Jefferson said. "That was just the ball bouncing their way."

Belinelli’s 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds remaining gave the Bulls, who shot 37 percent from the field, just enough to beat the Jazz 89-88.

It was the Jazz’s sixth loss in seven games. The last three, all against the Eastern Conference, have been by a combined five points.

The Jazz appeared to have the latest locked up after Jefferson made an 18-foot jump shot with 51 seconds remaining. On the Bulls’ final possession, Belinelli drove against Mo Williams and his floater clanked off.

Jefferson whiffed on the rebound. Then it bounced past Marvin Williams. Finally, Chicago All-Star center Joakim Noah saved the ball from going out of bounds, flipping it to teammate Jimmy Butler. Rebounds were an issue all night for the Jazz who, despite getting double-doubles from both Derrick Favors (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Marvin Williams (14 points, 10 rebounds), gave up 21 offensive rebounds and lost overall on the boards, 50-46.

"I got my hands on the ball, three, four times," Jefferson said. "Everybody touched the ball four or five times, but it still wind up in their hands and to the corner for a lucky shot."

With the ball secured Butler drove into the middle of the lane and lasered a pass to Belinelli in the corner.

Belinelli and former Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer scored 22 points each to lead the Bulls. Boozer added 10 rebounds.

Jefferson corrected himself to say Belinelli’s shot wasn’t lucky, but a "tough shot." Yet, if opponents aren’t getting lucky, it’s tough to see the results of the last three games as anything but unlucky for the Jazz.

"All three of these games have been just right there," said Gordon Hayward, who had a chance to win the game on the Jazz’s final possession but missed a 15-foot jumper over Belinelli. "A bounce here and there our way and we’re 3-0. ... But we’re not."

The Jazz have one more chance to salvage a win on the road trip, against the Knicks on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. The Jazz have struggled in back-to-backs this season, and are 3-4 in the second game when both games are played on the road.

But logic, precedent and statistics have had little bearing on the Jazz in recent weeks.

If those things added up to a logical conclusion, the Jazz would have taken the win out of the Windy City.

Jefferson scored 23 points in his first game back after missing three due to a sprained left ankle. The entire Jazz lineup was healthy for the first time since Dec. 22, when Mo Williams tore ligaments in his thumb in a loss at Miami.

The Jazz made their first five shots but quickly fell behind and, despite leading 35-33, by halftime were down nine. In the third quarter, the Jazz got 10 points from Jefferson and 9 from Marvin Williams to cut Chicago’s lead to two entering the final period.

In the fourth quarter the lead changed six times.

"We understand that it’s part of the journey," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We have to continue to work and understand what it’s going to take to get over the hump. If we don’t stay together and keep working, it’s not going to happen."

Twitter: @tribjazz

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