Facebook Twitter

Jazz go shotless in Seattle

SHARE Jazz go shotless in Seattle
Utah Jazz's Carlos Arroyo gets wrapped up by Seattle's Reggie Evans as Utah's Tom Gugliotta tries to help out in first half Wednesday.

Utah Jazz’s Carlos Arroyo gets wrapped up by Seattle’s Reggie Evans as Utah’s Tom Gugliotta tries to help out in first half Wednesday.

Jim Bryant, Associated Press

SEATTLE — Maybe it is the fact they have played six of their last seven games on the road, with stops - no particular order here - in the Southwest, the Southeast, the Pacific Northwest, the other side of the Rocky Mountains, America's rust-belt region and one foreign country.

(OK, Canada.)

Maybe it is the fact they spent all they had to get past the lowly Washington Wizards one night earlier, in their one recent game at home.

Maybe it is the fact they ran into one of the hottest acts in the West, or because Andrei Kirilenko could barely make a first-half basket, or because they shot just 24.3 percent from the field as a team at the break.

Whatever the case, this much is irrefutable:

When they reached down deep to pull off what would have been their comeback-of-the-season, the road-weary Jazz - maybe mentally tired as much as anything - had only a tank that had been running on empty a tad too long.

Seattle held off Utah's fourth-quarter rally to win 84-77 Wednesday night at Key Arena, and the cost for coming up dry is a mighty high one for the Jazz.

"It's aggravating," coach Jerry Sloan said, "to say the least - knowing how big the game was, (knowing) how we came out and lost our concentration as to how to play."

The price Utah pays:

It falls out of eight and final playoff position in the NBA's Western Conference, and back to a half-game behind the now-back-in-eighth Denver Nuggets, who beat Minnesota 101-92 earlier Wednesday night.

Moreover, the Jazz - now 37-35 with just 10 games to go in their regular season - are now only a half-game ahead of the 10th-place Portland Trail Blazers, who also won on Wednesday, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 87-85.

Seattle - which has now won six in a row, and avoided being swept by Utah in the four-game season series - led from the start of the second quarter on.

And when Ray Allen hit a 3-pointer with five minutes and 16 seconds to go in the third quarter, the 33-38 Sonics had extended a 13-point halftime lead to 22.

"We played actually not-so-bad defense ... but we can't score," said Kirilenko, who finished with a team-high 16 points, but shot just 5-of-15, including only 1-for-7 in the opening half.

Shot selection, Sloan would maintain, is one big reason for Utah's offensive woes.

"We had a difficult time playing against their zone, because we really didn't want to execute against it," he said. "We wanted to just kind of hang out and stay out on the perimeter in the first part of the ball game.

"The first half," Sloan added, "they didn't really believe in the offense."

With the loss seemingly inevitable, the Jazz could have eased home in cruise control to await Saturday night's Delta Center showdown with the Nuggets - who, by the way, visit the Sonics on Friday night before making their way to Utah.

Instead, fueled mostly by their subs, they gave Seattle a fourth-quarter scare.

"Finally, we got going a little bit - and then they (the Jazz) got a little confidence, and they started shooting the ball a little better," Sloan said. "But when you don't have any confidence in what you're trying to do, you're not gonna shoot, you're gonna defend, you're not gonna do anything."

Utah's bench players, in other words, showed more faith than the starters.

"The second group came in there, just ran simple plays, and moved the basketball wherever they had a chance to pass it, and then played off of that," Sloan said of group that included rookies Sasha Pavlovic, Mo Williams and Raul Lopez, veteran center Greg Ostertag and journeyman big man Mikki Moore.

"They were just executing our offense," he said. "It was pretty simple. It wasn't a big deal. The other guys couldn't do that."

When Kirilenko (who played the final four minutes of the fourth quarter) hit the third of three free throws resulting from a quite-questionable foul called on Brent Barry, that 22-point advantage of Seattle's was down to just three at 80-77.

Only 24.6 seconds, however, remained.

Williams fouled Allen off the ensuing in-bounds - not exactly what they wanted, since Allen is only a 90.3 percent shooter from the line - and he made both to put Seattle up by five.

On Utah's next trip down, with 17.9 seconds left - "It's was a pretty rushed situation," Kirilenko said - the Jazz's Russian All-Star put up a scrambling trey try that missed that missed the mark.

And that was that.

"We can't make shots," Kirilenko said.

"Sometimes, we play a little-bit stupid basketball - you know, throw the ball, and take a shot, take a shot. Outside shot," he said. "We need to go in. Go inside - because it's very important."

Which is what so many might say after spending so long outside of home.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com