Utah Jazz: Lottery beckons as Jazz slide continues against Knicks
By Bill Oram
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Mar 09 2013 10:19PM
New York • Throughout 48 minutes of one-sided basketball, a question hung over the Jazz in Madison Square Garden like stale metropolitan smog.
Is there a draft in here?
Just the one scheduled for June 27 at the World’s Most Famous Arena. At this rate, the Utah Jazz will have only that to look forward to once the regular season ends in mid-April.
They suffered their second-worst loss of the season, a 113-84 defeat to the Knicks, and fell to 0-4 on this East Coast road trip. Suddenly, it’s tough to see the Jazz as anything other than in a tailspin.
And headed for the lottery.
"Bad road trip for us," Gordon Hayward said. "Couldn’t really afford to do this, so we just made it that much tougher on ourselves."
The Jazz are falling faster than a Steve Novak 3-pointer.
As recently as the morning of Feb. 22, the Jazz had a five-game lead over the surging Lakers in the Western Conference playoff chase. After the Jazz lost for the seventh time in eight games on Saturday, the teams are tied for eighth in the West. By virtue of beating the Lakers twice this season, the Jazz own the tiebreaker.
"You still got to try to be positive," Hayward said. "We’ve got the spot, and still have plenty of games where we can get these ones back."
But at this point, the Jazz are looking more and more like the guy who gets a date, only to have the woman cancel at the last minute because, well, the guy’s really not that great.
The Jazz were last swept on a four-game road trip in January 2011, days before Jerry Sloan resigned and Deron Williams was deported to the Eastern Conference.
While that swing was a harbinger of impending doom, this one didn’t start that way. An overtime loss to Milwaukee hurt, but was encouraging. The last-second layup that missed in Cleveland was bad luck. Friday against the Bulls, when the two-point lead with six seconds left wasn’t enough, was a killer.
But Saturday against the Knicks, the accumulation of all the previous aches and pains, summed it up.
"It’s a crucial time of the season, man," Marvin Williams said. "We’re at a serious spot right now."
Against the Knicks, the Jazz hoped to exorcise some demons. New York was without Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, both sidelined with knee injuries.
And while the Jazz were without Paul Millsap, early on, it didn’t look like it would matter. Mo Williams, DeMarre Carroll and Randy Foye all made 3-pointers in the opening minutes and the Jazz led 11-4 before the Knicks ran off 15 straight points. When Utah rallied to cut the Knicks’ lead to 31-19, New York went on an 18-2 run.
Things got out of hand quicker than a Novak 3-pointer.
OK, so what of those 3s?
The Knicks forward made five, including three during the slayer of a run that had the Jazz down 55-38 by halftime. Novak scored 20 points for the Knicks, while J.R. Smith led all scorers with 24.
"If it wasn’t a 3," Marvin Williams said, "they were getting two free throws, and that’s very tough to stop."
In basketball, you can either stop it or you can match it, and the Jazz did neither. They shot just 38.5 percent from the field, while the Knicks made more than half of their field goals.
A year ago, the Jazz got better late in the season. They pushed and fought until they reached the playoffs as the eighth seed. And while the players who were around for it remember those days, they aren’t sure how to replicate them.
"What needs to change?" Derrick Favors asked, repeating a question asked of him. He exhaled. "Hmm."
He fidgeted and tied his left sneaker. His words came slowly.
"I don’t know yet."
The Jazz have 19 games to figure it out. Far fewer to make it matter.