The Utah Jazz only scored two points in last 3:50 of the game as they lost 119-115 to the Miami Heat at Miami-Dade Arena on Monday in the final game of a six-game road trip.
In a tight game throughout the fourth quarter, Miami took the lead for good after Tyler Herro hit a stepback jumper with 55 seconds left to give the Heat a two-point lead.
Here are three takeaways from the Jazz’s loss.
Ochai Agbaji’s recent success, plus his drive at the end of the game
Overall, Ochai Agbaji had a good game against the Heat, scoring 14 points, along with four rebounds, an assist and a steal. He was one of three Jazz players in double figures. Lauri Markkanen (38 points) and Simone Fontecchio (23 points) led the team in points.
It was tied for Agbaji’s fourth-highest scoring game of the season. He’s come into his own and has been able to become part of the Jazz’s rotation after getting 17 DNPs at the start of the season.
He’s averaging 11.8 points over his last 10 games with the Jazz, starting eight of those games as Jordan Clarkson has been out with injury.
Agbaji has been playing well as of late, but he’s still in his first year in the NBA and has growing to do.
The end of Monday’s game is something Agbaji can look back on and grow from.
With 11 seconds left, down by two, the Heat were a bit slow switching on the screen set by Agbaji. Talen Horton-Tucker recognized it, passed and Agbaji was easily able to blow past his man into the lane. Miami center Bam Adebayo came over to help, leaving Walker Kessler open.
Kessler appeared to call for an alley-oop, but Agbaji tried a tough-finish layup, going right at Adebayo, who looked like he got a finger on Agbaji’s shot.
Miami got the stop, Adebayo made both free throws at the other end, and the Heat had a four-point advantage with six seconds left.
Give credit to Adebayo, who made an incredible defensive play to win the game.
“That’s Bam at his finest right there. ... He made a heck of a play. When you see a window and it looks like they have an advantage, you’re thinking ‘Someone has to make a play,’ and he did,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game. “Super disciplined not to jump out of the hole, that would have ended up being an easy lob.”
Agbaji’s been playing well as of late, but that end-of-game play is going to be one he wishes he had back.
Lauri Markkanen’s bounceback game and Simone Fontecchio’s career night
Markkanen laughed off his 3-of-22 performance against the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, the worst game of his season so far.
On Monday, Markkanen was back to his old self.
He scored 38 points and had eight rebounds, an assist, a block and three steals.
It was the 15th game with 30 or more points for Markkanen this season, and it’s tied for the third-most points he’s scored in a game this season.
“That was hopefully kind of a one off,” Markkanen said about his performance in Charlotte. “Stay aggressive and come back with the same mindset and keep going,” he told KSL Zone radio after Monday’s game.
He did go 0 for 4 in the final three minutes of the game, but it’s a great sign that Markkanen had one of his best scoring outputs right after his worst game of the season.
Meanwhile, Fontecchio had an excellent start to the game, eclipsing his career-high in the first half alone. He scored 20 of his 23 points in the opening two periods.
He’s had performances of 23, 17 and 16 points this road trip after averaging 3.7 points per game going into it. Fontecchio is signed through the 2023-24 season, and it will be interesting to see if he’s on the team next season.
“He stayed aggressive. We know how good of a shooter he is and just need to see a couple go down. I’m happy for him and he got the opportunity and we keep feeding him. ... Great shooter. He gets it going and he’s a tough man to stop,” Markkanen said of Fontecchio, per KSL Zone radio.
A look at a tough remaining schedule
The Jazz have the NBA’s hardest remaining schedule, per Tankathon.com. Let’s break down the 13 games remaining in the regular season.
Utah just finished its longest road trip of the season — six games away from home — with a 2-4 record, losing the first three games of the trip to Oklahoma City and Dallas before bouncing back with wins at reeling Orlando and Charlotte, then losing at Miami.
The Jazz face a gauntlet to close the regular season.
There’s not a lot of wins here, at least on paper. Of course, the game is not played on paper, and the Jazz will win a game here or there against a better team, but nearly every game is going to be a challenge for the Jazz to win.
The Jazz play eight games against playoff teams — Boston (47-21) twice, Sacramento (40-26) twice, vs. Milwaukee (48-19), vs. Phoenix (37-30), vs. Denver (46-22) and at Brooklyn (39-29).
They also play the Los Angeles Lakers (33-35), who are fighting hard to get in a play-in or playoff spot, twice in April.
ESPN analytics have the Jazz favored in just three of their last 13 games — vs. Portland, at San Antonio and vs. Oklahoma City.
FiveThirtyEight’s analytics have Utah favored in four games — vs. Sacramento, vs. Portland, at San Antonio and vs. Oklahoma City.
The Jazz’s remaining schedule includes a couple of brutal back-to-back games — vs. Milwaukee in Salt Lake City on March 24 and then at Sacramento on March 25; vs. Denver in Salt Lake City on April 8 and then at the Los Angeles Lakers on April 9 to close out the regular season.
Wins are going to be tough for the Jazz to come by in their final 13 games. That being said, the Jazz have been in a lot of games they weren’t supposed to be in this season.