Jazz forward Jae Crowder’s pass sailed out of bounds. Donovan Mitchell futilely tried to recover the basketball and slapped the scorers table in frustration as the public address announcer’s microphone amplified the noise.
That’s the soundtrack of the Jazz’s first loss in a month.
This is not the kind of outcome that fans eagerly awaited, having missed their team during the NBA’s All-Streak break: Portland 100, Jazz 81 at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
A night that started with a celebration of Mitchell’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest victory began poorly and ended worse. The Jazz’s 11-game winning streak is gone, and their defeat was not the only result that worked against them Friday night. New Orleans, Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers all won, as the Jazz (30-29) fell 2½ games below the Western Conference’s playoff cut.
Portland’s performance and the scoreboard-watching disappointment conspired to drive home the point that the Jazz’s playoff push hardly will be easy. The Jazz have succeeded in making this season interesting, but that’s really all they’ve done. They appeared anything but fresh and crisp against the Blazers during a night that brought the reality of their 10th-place standing in the West into proper focus.
The loss ended any hope of the Jazz’s matching their longest run of 15 wins, set twice during the NBA Finals years of the late ’90s. They fell one victory short of the 2008-09 Jazz’s 12-game streak.
Going into the break, the Jazz had inspired belief that they would challenge the franchise record — even with powerful Houston looming as the potential 14th opponent in the streak. The Blazers ended that discussion, and empathically so.
The Jazz unsuccessfully blended Ricky Rubio back into the lineup, threw a bunch of interceptions and never led in a game that got away from them for good in the second quarter when they scored eight points in the first 8½ minutes.
All night, “We were kind of waiting for something good to happen,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Nothing good happened.”
Nobody knew for sure how the Jazz would come out of the break, but they were playing so well in the first half of February that it was reasonable to picture the streak lasting a while longer. Snyder partly played along with the angle of some mystery being attached to the Jazz’s resuming the schedule.
“I don’t think how we play is going to be determined by how we are handling the streak or the break or anything like that,” Snyder said before the game. “I just think we need to be focused and do some of the things we have been doing and do them better, frankly.”
That didn’t happen.
The winning should start again Saturday night against Dallas. If not, the All-Star break will be remembered for derailing the Jazz’s season.
“We weren’t as sharp as we’ve been before,” Rudy Gobert said.
Lobbed the natural question about the layoff having an effect, Gobert answered, “Probably, but they had a break too.”
Turnovers (19) hurt the Jazz, and so did Portland guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who combined for 50 points. Lillard thrived after visiting Ogden and watching his old school, Weber State, crumble in the second half of Thursday’s loss to Eastern Washington. The Wildcats had won nine straight games, so Lillard witnessed the end of two nice streaks in Utah in 24 hours.
The Jazz tried just about everything in an effort to make this another memorable event. They brought back Darrell Griffith to re-enact the Slam Dunk trophy presentation to Mitchell, his fellow Louisville alum, and staged International Night in honor of their diverse roster.
Griffith’s 1983-84 team, the franchise’s first playoff qualifier, won eight straight games in December and finished 45-37. Matching that record would be an achievement for Mitchell’s team, and that’s about what it would take to make the playoffs.