As understandable as it was for a team missing two starters and having been extended to overtime the night before in a monumental comeback victory, the Jazz's fourth-quarter fade in Monday's 105-100 loss to the Atlanta Hawks was disappointing all the same.
Eighteen times this season the Jazz had taken a lead into the fourth quarter at EnergySolutions Arena and all 18 times they had gone on to win. That changed Monday as the Hawks ended a 15-game losing steak in Utah with their first victory since Feb. 13, 1993.
The Jazz couldn't hold on to a six-point lead and were outscored 31-25 in the fourth quarter. Unable to build on their 4-0 trip back from the All-Star break, the Jazz lost for just the third time in their last 20 games and failed to gain ground in the standings.
The last time Atlanta won in Utah, Bob Weiss was the Hawks' coach and Dominique Wilkins scored 43 points. The Jazz could have pulled into a tie with second-place Denver in the Western Conference with a victory. Now they're just a half-game ahead of No. 4 Dallas.
With Deron Williams (bruised quadriceps) and Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) sitting out and the Jazz sapped after Sunday's 25-point second-half comeback and overtime victory in Portland, Kyle Korver acknowledged, "The odds probably weren't in our favor."
At the same time, Korver added: "We still expect to win when we're here. We've had guys out a whole lot the last few years and we've always tried to find ways to win. Tonight we just didn't quite have enough."
The Jazz started Ronnie Price and C.J. Miles in place of Williams and Kirilenko and had seven players score in double figures. They took a 75-74 lead into the fourth quarter and opened with a 10-5 run. Kyrylo Fesenko even made two free throws with 10:46 left.
The Hawks called timeout trailing 85-79 after Wesley Matthews hit a shot in the lane with 8:43 remaining. They answered with a 12-2 run highlighted by an alley-oop dunk by Josh Smith, a three-pointer by Jamal Crawford and a three-point play by Smith.
Crawford's three-pointer came as the Jazz double-teamed Smith and Korver left Crawford trying to help cover on defense. The Jazz were victimized a second time with 2:28 left when Miles went to double Smith, leaving Joe Johnson open for a three-pointer.
"They all pass the ball," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said, "they've all got the ability to be able to shoot the ball out on the floor, so you're really put in a tough situation how much help you can give inside and how much you leave your man open out on the perimeter."
The Jazz still led 95-94 with 2:48 to play as Korver got open for a jumper. Johnson's three-pointer, however, put Atlanta back in front by two. Crawford stole the ball from Carlos Boozer and sank two free throws to make it 99-95 for the Hawks.
Boozer brought the Jazz within 99-97 as he followed up Price's missed three-pointer. Mike Bibby came up short on a 13-footer at the other end, but Boozer lost the rebound out of bounds, giving the ball back to Atlanta.
The Hawks worked the clock before Johnson drove on Miles and pulled up for a 14-footer with 37.5 seconds left. Johnson finished with 28 points -- 11 in the fourth quarter -- while hitting 12 of 19 shots for Atlanta, the Eastern Conference's No. 4 team.
"He showed why he's an All-Star and why he is who he is," Miles said. "He made some tough shots. The last one he hit, I thought I had great position. I pushed him to the hilt. I contested, they contested, he was fading away. He just made a tough shot."
Miles was fouled at the other end, but missed both free throws. Paul Millsap came up with the rebound but missed his layup underneath. The Hawks then tied up Millsap, with Smith winning the subsequent jump ball.
The Jazz got 46 points from their bench players and could take positives from the encouraging performances by Fesenko (nine points, six rebounds) and Sundiata Gaines, who had 10 points in his first action since the All-Star break.
"What scares me the most, the winning and everything is fine, but after you lose sometimes the air goes out of you," Sloan said, "and you think, 'Oh, wow, we were supposed to win now' without putting the effort into it to do so."
IN SHORT » Sapped and shorthanded, the Jazz are outscored 31-25 in the fourth quarter in losing to the Hawks.
KEY MOMENT » Joe Johnson's jumper over C.J. Miles with 37.5 seconds to play gives Atlanta a 101-97 lead.
KEY STAT » The Jazz subtracted a combined 30.6 points, 12.7 assists and 8.8 rebounds from their lineup with Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko.