There's no shame in losing to the Orlando Magic and Shaquille O'Neal.
But losing to the Los Angeles Clippers and Terry Dehere?It figured that the Utah Jazz might suffer a letdown after a disappointing loss to the Magic at home Friday that all but killed the Jazz's chances for a Midwest Division title. It didn't figure to be a letdown serious enough to cause them to lose to the team with the worst record in the NBA.
That, however, is exactly what happened. The Jazz, showing that they apparently believe their title hopes are down the tubes, lost to the Clippers, 116-98, Saturday night at Arrowhead Pond (that's an arena, in case you weren't aware).
"We just got beat," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "They outplayed us in every aspect of the game."
The Clippers, 44-percent shooters for the season, fired away at a 51.3-percent clip in defeating the NBA's best road team.
Sloan said he hadn't expected his team to let down after the Magic loss.
"I really didn't think we would," he said. "I thought we were mentally tougher than what we showed tonight."
Jazz forward David Benoit said the players knew this was a more important game than the Magic contest, for the simple reason that this game was winnable, while the other was history.
It just didn't help.
"You've got to bounce back, and we didn't," Benoit said. "We just didn't have any fight."
Both coaches departed from their usual starting lineups for this game. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan went with Tom Chambers at center, while Clippers coach Bill Fitch started Eric Piatkowski at forward, probably because of a good game Piatkowski had against the Jazz in Salt Lake City. But the rookie collected three fouls in the first 2:23 and was not a major factor.
The Jazz scored easily enough early, posting 28 points in the first quarter. Six of their first seven field goals were layups or dunks - they only made two jump shots in the period. But the Clippers were pretty much getting what they wanted offensively, too, matching the Jazz with 28 first-quarter points. Utah shot 57.9 percent in the period, L.A. 60 percent.
In the second quarter, the Clippers scored the first seven points, five on two drives by Terry Dehere past a mostly stationary Blue Edwards. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan put rookie Jamie Watson in for Edwards then, which settled Dehere down, but Richardson popped in two more threes to give him four in the first 17 minutes.
The Jazz didn't get their firstscore of the second quarter until the nine-minute mark, but they caught the Clips with an 8-0 run at mid-period. Utah closed the period with a 5-0 spurt to take a 54-51 lead at the half.
Malone, who had promised after the Magic loss that he wouldn't pass up any shots the remainder of the season, scored the Jazz's first 11 points of the third quarter. Six minutes had passed before someone besides Malone scored, when Stockton connected on a driving bank shot.
As long as the Mailman was scoring, the Jazz kept pace with the Clippers. When he stopped, however, L.A. pulled ahead. In the closing minutes of the period, the Clippers put together a 9-2 spurt to lead by eight, 85-77, at the buzzer.
Dehere scored the first bucket of the fourth quarter, on another drive, to put the Clippers up by 10, and the Jazz just couldn't make a run. Malone and Stockton were the only guys playing consistent offense in the period, while on the other end Dehere continued to run amok. He scored 12 points in the quarter.
Malone led the Jazz with 37 points, hitting 13 of 18 shots. Stockton, playing with an aching back (suffered in the Orlando game), totaled 16 points, 12 assists. And Hornacek contributed 13 points, two in the second half. The Jazz bench was outscored, 36-18.
For the Clippers, Lamond Murray totaled 26, Dehere and Loy Vaught each had 21.
The Jazz next play Seattle on Tuesday in the Delta Center, in another Big Game. The Sonics are just a half game behind Utah in the Western Conference standings.