SALT LAKE CITY — It was another promising matchup between the tortoise and the hare.
This time, though, there were 19,000 plus spectators on hand to watch the outcome. And this time, slow and steady didn't come close to winning the race by the time they got to the finish line.
Instead, Atlanta used its superior quickness to full advantage on both ends of the court, shooting nearly 48 percent from the field while forcing Utah into 20 turnovers. And the Hawks capitalized by scoring 26 points off Utah's turnovers.
The Jazz, meanwhile, squandered a strong start by shooting 10 of 43 (23.2 percent) over the second and third quarters. In the end, Utah's fourth-quarter comeback bid fell short in a 91-84 loss to the Hawks on Tuesday night at Vivint Arena.
Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer was delighted to come away with the win, especially after his team fell behind 27-16 after the opening period.
"Winning in this building is never easy, so it feels good to our guys," he said. "The first quarter was a pretty big punch, (but) we were able to play pretty good defense for the next three quarters and steady ourselves offensively. ... Different guys made big plays when we needed them."
Indeed, lightning-quick point guard Jeff Teague scored a game-high 24 points and handed out six assists for the Hawks, who won for the fifth time in six games, while former Jazzman Paul Millsap added 18 points, nine rebounds and three steals.
"We've got to get ourselves going a little bit earlier," Millsap said. "I think once we settle in, our defensive pretty much takes over."
Al Horford added 11 points and seven boards for Atlanta (36-28), which outscored Utah by a 50-30 margin over the second and third quarters combined.
"We played well in the first quarter, and then Atlanta did some things that really bothered us and we started turning the ball over," said Jazz coach Quin Snyder.
"You saw what we did the first quarter, and that's been a trend. We've played well the first quarter defensively and we haven't been able to sustain it. Some of that was Atlanta. I thought that they got into the lane on us, that was the primary thing. We've got to do a better job keeping people out of the paint. ... That, to me, is an area that's usually pretty indicative of how we're playing.
"Atlanta's really quick, and they did a good job hawking the ball — no pun intended," Snyder said. "(Dennis) Schroder, Teague, (Kent) Bazemore, (Thabo) Sefolosha and all those guys and their activity, and their bigs are the same way. They're not just quick laterally, they all have the quick hands. I thought it bothered us and sometimes we were careless. ... I thought that their aggressiveness defensively at certain times was a problem for us."
After taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter — Tuesday's loss marked the ninth time this season the Jazz have lost after leading by 10 or more points — Utah's clunky second-quarter shooting allowed the Hawks to pull within 42-41 at halftime.
More of the same staked Atlanta to a 66-57 lead at the third stop, but the Jazz weren't done yet. Rodney Hood hit back-to-back 3s to get Utah within six, 72-66, at the seven-minute mark, and Gordon Hayward had a driving layup, two free throws and a corner 3 in a 9-1 run that got the Jazz within three, 78-75, with 4:17 to go.
Millsap's bucket inside and Hayward's shot in the lane made it an 80-77 game with 3:40 left, but Horford and Teague each scored layups, Teague added a floater and Millsap scored on a dunk in an 8-1 Atlanta run that put it out of reach.
Hayward had 22 points and six rebounds for Utah, while Derrick Favors contributed 16 points and eight boards, and Hood had 16 and six. Rudy Gobert pulled down 15 rebounds as the Jazz won the rebounding battle by a 54-41 margin.
But Utah shot just 34.9 percent from the field, as Shelvin Mack (2 of 13), Hayward (6 of 18), Hood (6 of 16), Joe Ingles (1 of 7) and Raul Neto (2 of 6) were the main culprits in a shaky shooting night.
"First off, you tip your hat to them; they're a phenomenal defensive team," Hayward said. "They have been doing it for the past 20 or 30-plus games. I think they are number one in the NBA in defense, so that is what they do.
"Also, on the other end, we have to be better. We did not attack the pick-and-roll as we should. Then when you're hesitant, they're long, active and quick, and that is when they get steals.
"I think just tough, tough, tough night for us," Hayward added. "Like I said, offensively we struggled. We got some good looks; we just did not knock them down and, when you can't put the ball in the basket, it really makes it tough on you. I think that was the story of the game tonight."
Snyder defended Mack, who was traded by the Hawks to the Jazz on Feb. 18.
"He had four or five shots right in the restricted area that I've watched him make for years," the Jazz coach said. "Whether he was pressing or not, obviously he wanted to have a good game and there's all kinds of external stuff going on in your head.
"He didn't shoot well, but he was getting great looks, and you have to show confidence in a player."
The Jazz (29-34), who lost for the sixth time in seven games to fall two games behind Houston for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot, play at Golden State Wednesday.