For Charlotte coach Steve Clifford, the Utah Jazz’s 83-80 victory over the Bobcats on Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena was an unhappy replay of his team’s previous two games.
Charlotte rallied from a 14-point deficit against the Jazz but, in the end, the Bobcats failed to finish well-executed possessions down the stretch.
It happened in an 89-85 loss to Oklahoma City on Friday night.
It happened in a 118-116 overtime loss at Atlanta on Saturday night.
It happened again in Utah.
"We had our chances, obviously," Clifford said. "What do they say, it’s a make-or-miss league. Tonight, they made and we missed."
Recalling the losses to the Thunder and Hawks, he added, "We’ve gotten good shots by the right people but, if we’re going to win, they have to go in the basket."
Charlotte trailed at halftime, 42-34. The Jazz bumped their lead to 57-43 midway through the third quarter before Kemba Walker, who finished with 18 points, helped get the Bobcats back in the game.
"We were playing with very little energy until [then]," Clifford said.
What did he tell his players at the start of the fourth quarter, when the Bobcats still trailed, 63-53?
"Just keep playing," Clifford said. "Forty-eight minutes is a long time and we’ve been down a bunch of times. Just stay with it and keep fighting."
That’s exactly what happened.
Charlotte opened the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run and took a 77-76 lead with just over a minute left. But the Bobcats then missed four straight shots — all of them close to the basket.
"The ball just didn’t go in," Clifford said.
Defensively, the Bobcats broke down on the Jazz’s biggest possessions.
Derrick Favors scored from underneath with a minute remaining to give Utah a 78-77 lead. Rookie Trey Burke followed with a shot clocking-beating layup to make it a three-point game with 19.1 seconds left.
"We were kind of slow-moving all game," said Charlotte’s Gerald Henderson, who finished with 19 points. "[But] we made a push and ... were right there at the end of the game. We just made some mistakes defensively coming down the stretch — a couple of them myself."
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