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Jazz still believe despite losses

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CHICAGO — With the losses mounting and the frustration compounding, the Jazz — losers of seven straight, and 10 of their last 11 games — are asking for some understanding from those who may have lost the faith.

"We still believe in us, and I hope our fans still believe in us," guard Gordan Giricek said after the Jazz fell 106-99 to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night at the Delta Center. "And when all our players are available to play, I think we'll be fine.

"When Andrei returns," Giricek added, "it will be easier on the team."

When that will be, no one knows for certain.

Neither All-Star forward Andrei Kirilenko nor center Jarron Collins traveled with the Jazz to Chicago, where tonight Utah opens a back-to-back road set that closes Saturday night in Milwaukee.

The 11-22 Jazz are 3-17 since Kirilenko went down with a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee during a Nov. 27 game at San Antonio.

Five games later, Collins sprained the MCL in his right knee.

Both could resume practicing with team sometime next week, but their return to the Jazz lineup remains multiple games away.

Usual Jazz starting shooting guard Raja Bell, meanwhile, did make the trip to Chicago. But he has missed three of the last five games due to inflammation and pain in his right knee, and is questionable for tonight. He arrived in Chicago with MRI X-rays in hand, so a specialist in Chicago can review them today.

If Bell sits out for the fourth time in six games, Giricek — fresh off a season-high 18 points in Utah's 106-99 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday night at the Delta Center — probably will make his third straight start.

Sounding suspiciously similar to Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, he has an idea as to what it will take for the Jazz to reverse their fortunes while Kirilenko and the others continue to mend.

"We have to stay alert and keep our concentration, and not put our heads down," Giricek said. "We have to find a way to get through this crisis."


That's what it has become for the Jazz, who lost six in a row from late November through early December earlier this season — but have not lost eight straight since a stretch during the 1982-83 season in which they wound up dropping nine consecutive games.

What, then, will it take for the Jazz to come out of what started as a funk but now is classified a crisis?

Nearly everyone has a thought.

"We need to pull together," rookie Kirk Snyder said, "and win ball games."

Sounds simple enough.

"We can't keep getting behind," co-captain Matt Harpring said. "We are not a 'catch-up' team."

So true.

The Jazz have trailed heading into the fourth quarter in each of their last 11 games. Not since a Dec. 14 win over the Los Angeles Clippers have they held an advantage going into the final period.

But, Sloan suggested after the Jazz fell to the Sixers, there is more to it than that.

He points not to a fourth-quarter 3-pointer from Kyle Korver as the shot that broke the Jazz's back — Utah had rallied from 18 down to just one behind before Korver's trey pushed the Philly advantage back up to four with just more than nine minutes to go — but, rather, to how the Jazz responded to that basket.

The answer: Korver stole a Howard Eisley pass, Kris Humphries committed a foul on the other end and the Jazz never again got to within closer than four.

"What do we do at the other end of the floor?" Sloan asked. "We get the ball, and instead of making the extra pass we hold it. We hold the ball. A guy's wide open in the corner, we hold it.

"You can't do it yourself," the Jazz coach added. "We all need each other to be able to have a chance. Otherwise, we don't have much of a chance."

The losses prove it, and that you can believe.

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com