In section 135, row 9 of the upper bowl of Vivint Smart Home Arena, with her team down by more than 20 points, Karen Abrams was having the time of her life.
Her golden T-shirt stood out among a sea of orange, and her dancing and cheering only added to the effect.
She broke her dance party just briefly to express her displeasure — not at the Utah Jazz, who were in the midst of a 113-92 drubbing to the Houston Rockets, but at the handful of empty seats she saw around the arena.
“I’m disappointed. This sucks,” she said. “This is what we are known for, whether the Jazz are up 50 or down 50. We stick with them. It’s in our blood. You’re either in or you’re out.”
But Abrams set a pretty high bar: The vast majority of the 18,306-strong sellout crowd was all in until the bitter end of Game 3.
The Jazz trailed by uncomfortable margins throughout Friday’s game: 17 points after the first quarter; 30 points at halftime; 28 points after the third quarter. But even entering a fourth quarter where it appeared Utah had very little to play for, the blue seats in the arena stayed solidly striped with gold, orange and red.
While a trickle out of the arena started midway through the fourth quarter, many soldiered on. Oohs and aahs still rumbled out for Jazz shots. Noisemakers still clapped together.
That group included Mike Cafarelli of Grantsville, sitting in the 28th row of section 14 — right at the top of the lower bowl — who gave a whoop as Alec Burks scored the last basket of the game with 17 seconds left.
Cafarelli attended the game with his son, Jake Cafarelli, and said he kept waiting for a comeback, even when his sense told him it wasn’t on its way.
“We’re huge Jazz fans, and it’s fun to be here to cheer them on,” he said. “We kept thinking they’d make a big run, maybe cut it to 10 or 12 at least.
“Plus we really wanted to see David Stockton,” Cafarelli added.
Stockton played four minutes, scoring two points on a layup.
The loss, though discouraging, didn’t deter the Cafarellis from believing that the Jazz can come back from the 2-1 deficit in the Western Conference semifinals. To them (and other fans who spoke to The Tribune), it seemed natural that the Rockets would come out raring after taking a Game 2 loss at home.
They hoped the Jazz would take Game 3 the same way.
“I don’t think the Jazz will play that bad in the first half again,” Mike Cafarelli said. “They’ve got to show more fight than they did in that first quarter.”
As the crowd finally emptied out during the latter stages of the game, three men sat in row 6 of section 19, recapping it to themselves. It was three generations of the same family: Greg Harr had flown with his son, Hunter Harr, at 12:45 Friday morning from Anchorage, Alaska, and arrived in Utah at 9 a.m. Greg’s father, John Harr, had driven up from a graduation in St. George.
In the wake of a pummeling Jazz loss, they remained still for a few extra minutes — perhaps all the miles hitting them at once, and perhaps the price of their tickets, too.
But they remained all the same.
“A lot of times you see tons of fans leaving early or whatever,” Hunter Harr said. “It’s kind of cool to see people stay.”