Utah Jazz: Depleted Jazz let victory slip away
CHARLOTTE - Just when it looked like the Jazz might survive the loss of Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko and Memo Okur against Charlotte on Friday night, they also lost Carlos Boozer for key stretches because of foul trouble.
Four strikes and you're out.
With foul-plagued Boozer on the bench for the game's two most critical stretches, the Bobcats made their decisive runs during an eventual 104-96 victory at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Raymond Felton scored 23 points, Gerald Wallace added 22 and Adam Morrison poured in 13 of his 15 in the second half as Charlotte handed Utah its second straight loss.
Boozer led the Jazz with 26 points and 15 rebounds, but he played only 33 minutes because of foul trouble.
"It certainly didn't help, having to sit him down for a period," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. ". . . But they made plays. They outhustled us, outworked us, got to the free-throw line 38 times and we had 20 turnovers. Any time you do that, it's tough to win."
Playing without Williams and Kirilenko because of injuries and Okur because he remains in Turkey with his critically ill father, the Jazz managed to open a 12-point lead in the first half.
It was still 40-33 when Boozer picked up his third foul with 3:55 left in the second quarter, and the Bobcats used an 11-3 run to take a 44-43 lead.
Late in the third quarter of a 68-68 tie, Boozer was called for his fourth foul. By the time he returned 6 1/2 minutes later, the Bobcats used a 16-8 run to build an 84-76 lead.
The Boozer-less totals?
In 10 1/2 minutes, Charlotte outscored the Jazz 27-11 in a game that wasn't decided until the final 30 seconds.
"I still believed, when I was out of the game, we had a chance," Boozer said. ". . . I was out of the game and it hurt us a little. But we still had a chance, I thought."
Like Sloan, Boozer credited the scrappy Bobcats, who entered the game as the lowest-scoring team in the NBA but finished with a season-high point-total.
"They just played better down the stretch," said Boozer. ". . . [But] we're not beating teams we should beat, even if we are shorthanded. I feel like the guys in this locker room can play with anybody. We've got guys who compete - guys who are ready. . . . To me, I feel like we should win no matter who's out there."
When the Jazz got behind, Sloan thought his players panicked, especially on offense, where Ronnie Price and Brevin Knight are quarterbacking in place of Williams.
"We miss Deron, even though those [two] guys are doing a good job, trying to hold us in there," Sloan said. "But the other guys - the players playing with them - have to be a little bit more patient. . . . We have had a tendency to think, 'I have to do it myself.' "
According to Sloan, "[The Bobcats] . . . did a good job of hustling for the basketball, putting a little pressure on us. And when they put pressure on us, we went crazy a few times. We either turned the ball over or took tough shots with no purpose."
If there was one play that sealed the Jazz's fate, it was an unnecessary foul by Paul Millsap with 37 seconds left - after Utah cut the eight-point deficit to 95-92.
"We didn't want to foul," Sloan said. "But I don't think they heard us. I hollered, 'No foul.' Maybe they thought I was hollering, 'Foul.' But you can't foul and put them five up with 37 seconds [left]. You've got to play them and try to get the ball. But it seems to me - when things are kind of tough - that's what happens."
Said Ronnie Brewer, who missed 12 of his 16 shots, "There are definitely games that are winnable. We feel we are capable of beating these other teams. But a couple of plays here and a couple of plays there - a couple of breakdowns - cost you the game."
JAZZ AT CLEVELAND
Today, 5:30 p.m., FSN