Monson: Jazz make progress, but can't defy history
One by one, the Jazz filed off their own floor Saturday night, an empty look in their eyes, staring as they were at elimination. They knew better than anyone that no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven playoff series.
The Jazz won't be the first.
Not as presently constituted, not against the Spurs. Against the Golden State Warriors, maybe, but not in these playoffs, not with the No. 1 seed in the West wearing them down, wearing them out.
The best the Jazz could say about their 102-90 loss at EnergySolutions Arena was something straight out of your kids' T-ball game: They tried real hard.
That's not meant as condescension. It's a compliment, such as it is. And Derrick Favors took it that way, sort of.
"We're frustrated," he said. "We played our hearts out, and that's what it comes down to now, it's heart. We have to just go out and play. We have to find the fight in us. Knock somebody down. Do whatever has to be done. Do â¦ something."
What the Jazz pulled off in Game 3 was progress, after the mess left behind from the first two games in San Antonio, during which the Jazz failed to bring much of anything positive to the endeavor. That's what this first-round playoff series had devolved into an attempt not to get embarrassed.
And there were no red faces Saturday night. Only widespread exasperation and collective realization that the Jazz cannot really compete with the mighty Spurs, a team far beyond their reach.
"They made plays down the stretch, and we didn't," said Gordon Hayward, who finished with four points on 1-for-10 shooting. "We have to be better in every facet of the game on offense and defense. They've just been better than us."
So they have been. So they are.
The Spurs did something the Jazz ultimately couldn't here.
"We scored," said Gregg Popovich. "We made shots."
The Jazz did not, at least not at the end.
Everyone had waited to see whether the Jazz would come alive in this game, boosted now by a home crowd unique in its passion and support and â¦ noise. Utah's players had predicted that the change in venue from AT&T Center to ESA would make a difference for them "The fans are going to help us out a lot," Favors said and â¦ well, for a while they did.
In the first half, the Jazz finally got comfortable in their own gym. Devin Harris, who had been vapor in the first two games, led the way for Utah, hitting 6 of 11 shots for 14 points. In that early span, the Jazz made 47 percent of their attempts, which was a burst of efficiency for them. Trouble was, the Spurs made 55 percent of theirs.
Although the Jazz put up a strong early effort, they still trailed at the break, 52-50.
As the second half dragged on, they fell behind and stayed there straight through to the end. A few problem areas: 1) the Jazz scored only 28 points in the paint, while the Spurs had 50; 2) the Jazz hit only 14 of 26 free throws; and 3) the Spurs ran for 22 transition points, and the Jazz got just nine.
The Jazz did beat San Antonio on the boards, 49-41, evidence they were trying at least to try, trying to take responsibility for the outcome, trying to change the direction of the series.
But they simply couldn't run their offense effectively enough, and couldn't find the defense to slow a team that might be on its way to an NBA title.
Tyrone Corbin had cried out for his team to "play better." As a hundred questions about changes in lineups and strategies were fired off at him beforehand, that was his consistent solution. It wasn't enough.
"It's a tough loss on our home floor," he said afterward. "I thought we played better, but we just couldn't put it together enough to get over the hump against these guys."
Now, they never will. That's a fact. It's history. But you don't have to look it up.
GORDON MONSON hosts the "Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.