Sacramento 105, Jazz 90
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Donyell Marshall said he was glad to get a game like Sunday's out of his system.
The Jazz can only hope the purge is complete, for him and them, because they simply cannot beat teams like Sacramento when someone so key does not show, as was the case in their 105-90 loss to the Pacific Division-leading Kings on Sunday at ARCO Arena.
"I've said it all along: Whether it's a good team or a bad team — quote: good, or quote: bad — we need everybody to play well," Jazz guard John Stockton said. "And that's not going to change any time soon."
Marshall, mind you, was hardly the only one who didn't have his act together on a day the 43-19 Jazz had their four-game winning streak snapped, dropping them into a tie with San Antonio, which owns the tie-breaker between the two, for top winning percentage (.694) in the NBA's Western Conference.
But he was chief among them, and he knew it.
Marshall was held scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting and pulled down only two rebounds in 20 minutes, his shortest stint and, by far, his most disappointing game since entering the Utah starting lineup at small forward 29 games ago.
"As long it doesn't stay consistent, that's the main focus," said Marshall, who scored in double figures in 24 of his first 25 games since starting but has been held to fewer than 10 in three of his last four. "The thing is to come back, bounce back and pick it up. Get things rolling again."
For at least one day, though, so much that so many from Utah did fell flat.
Marshall's backup, Bryon Russell, played 33 minutes but was held to just 9 points. Stockton struggled himself, shooting 3-of-11 from the field. And the Jazz got not nearly enough from backup center Greg Ostertag, who was scoreless with two blocks and just three rebounds in 14 minutes.
Combined, it prevented the Jazz from overcoming a Kings club that got 31 points from Peja Stojakovic and 26 from Chris Webber, who is averaging nearly 32 points in four games since returning from an ankle sprain sustained late in a Feb. 13 win over the Jazz.
"No," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said when asked if Utah could topple the Kings when a few take the game off. "We're not good enough. They're too good of a team. They manhandled us all day. They did a great job. They got their hands on basketballs; we couldn't pass the ball."
The Jazz committed 22 turnovers, seven fewer than the Kings and more than in any of Utah's previous 21 games.
"You come on the road and try to play a team and compete against them, with that many turnovers, you don't deserve a chance to win," Sloan said.
The Jazz did hang close early, thanks in large part to the hot shooting hand of John Starks, who scored 14 of Utah's first 24 points.
"I was in a groove early on," said Starks, who finished with a team-high 21 points. "It felt good. . . . I felt like I had a lot of energy."
Sadly for the Jazz, the same cannot be said for most of the rest of the bunch. Playing its 11th game in 18 days, Utah looked sluggish and sloppy.
That reality is reflected in the turnovers, including six by Karl Malone, who took a season-low eight shots from the field. Malone did make seven of those eight and hit 6-of-7 from the free-throw line to finish with 20 points.
"We didn't have much energy today," Sloan said. "I think 22 turnovers is a pretty good indicator of that."
The Jazz's slippery fingers caught up with them in the third quarter, when Sacramento outscored Utah 27-18.
A crushing blow came with time winding down in the third in the form of a 3-point heave from 35-plus feet out by guard Jason Williams, who gave Sacramento a double-digit advantage of 12 going into the final quarter. Utah did cut Sacramento's edge to as few as 6 when Danny Manning drove to the basket for 2 of his 20 off-the-bench points, but that's when the Kings drove in a final dagger.
Russell was flagged for a flagrant foul on Hidayet Turkoglu, a questionable call that, two free throws and a Webber-jumper-on-the-resulting-possession later, led to Sacramento going up by 10. For the final six minutes and 52 seconds after that, the Kings did not relinquish their double-digit lead.
Sloan refrained from saying anything too negative about the back-breaking play: "Any thoughts you have in this business that has to do with anybody's judgment is going to cost you," he said. "I'd rather not be charged."
The Jazz can, however, be charged, and adjudicated guilty, of letting one slip away because not everyone came to play. And that just doesn't cut it against the Kings, who are now just a half-game back of the Jazz and Spurs in the race for top seed in the West.
"They're as talented as anybody in basketball," Sloan said, "and they should be tough to play against, because they've got guys that can shoot, they've got guys that can play inside, they've got guys that can drive the ball, they've got guys that can play the pick-and-roll."
And they've got guys that, for at least one day, all showed when they knew they must.
MISC.: Starks claimed sole team-high scoring honors for the first time this season . . . With the 21, Starks also tied his season-high point total . . . Manning's 20 points were also a season-high . . . Webber's eight steals tied his personal career-high in that department . . . The Jazz returned to Salt Lake after Sunday's game, but head west again on Tuesday for road games against Golden State on Wednesday, Portland on Friday and the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.