Turns Out Enough Talent Beats Even Hustle

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

The Jazz dropped an important game to the Mavericks last night, getting run out of Dallas's building 117-94with their tails between their legs. As Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan told multiple sources, Dallas destroyed Utah last night, and it was because of the Mavericks imposing talent, pure and simple. Sloan didn't especially fault the Jazz's effort, instead saying that Dallas is an extraordinarily talented team and should have won more than it has.

Too bad you can't say the same thing about the Utah Jazz.

The game was unfortunate all the way around. The Jazz faced a double-digit deficit almost from the get-go and never got it back under 10. The Mavs had 13 more fast break points than the Jazz. They led by as many as 27. It was just a destruction game, from start to finish.

There were a few bright spots, but only if you are squinting really tightly can you call it a silver lining. Antawn Jamison had 25 points in 25 minutes, an amazing achievement, but Raja Bell nearly matched him, and so did Maurice Williams. Bell scored 18 in 22 minutes. Williams scored 17 in 19 minutes. That's pretty good production!

So it turns out that enough talent and a bare minimum of hustle and drive will overcome even the tremendous heart and hustle that the Jazz have been putting on display all season.

The Jazz drop back to the tenth spot in the playoff standings, half a game behind Portland and Denver. They can take comfort that they will gain on at least one of those teams by tomorrow, as Portland and Denver face off, but the Jazz can't daydream for too long, or even wallow in self-pity after last night's loss, as they have to look ahead to their own game tomorrow against the recently slumping Rockets.

If the Rockets beat Denver tonight, they might come out underestimating the Jazz and drop a game almost by accident. What a gift that would be.

The Jazz host the Houston Rockets tomorrow in a pivotal game for both teams, and the third to last game of the regular season for Utah. Utah is trying to get back into the playoffs and Houston is trying to keep its seventh spot. Utah is 2-1 so far this season against Houston. The game starts at 7:00pm tomorrow and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net and NBA League Pass.

Andrei Kirilenko's 13 points and 11 rebounds marked his team-leading 21st double-double of the season.

Jarron Collins was assessed his second flagrant foul in the past two weeks when he stopped Dirk Nowitzki's drive to the basket in the first quarter. "It was just a hard foul. I didn't think there was anything flagrant about it," Collins told The Salt Lake Tribune.

The Jazz have an "optional" practice today before tomorrow's game against the Rockets.

Matt Harpring
(knee) andCurtis Borchardt(wrist) are out likely for the rest of the season.


Phil Miller ofThe Salt Lake Tribunewrites: The Jazz took a step backward in their last-ditch playoff race Thursday, but it may have been an optical illusion. Time and place can become distorted when objects move at that speed.The Mavericks made a mockery of Utah's three-way footrace to the playoffs' back door, driving a Mack Truck right over the top of them en route to a 117-94 victory that had a reality-bending effect on Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. He wasn't angry. He was jealous.

Phil Miller ofThe Salt Lake Tribunewrites: Mikki Moore doesn't get to dunk on many 7-foot-6 people, like he did Thursday with a resounding slam over Shawn Bradley. But it's not something entirely new to him, either. Bradley was the victim last time, too. And so was the Maverick center's response."Shawn and I have a little bit of a history, you could say, of bumping into each other," Moore said. Bradley retaliated for Moore's dunk Thursday with an elbow to the stomach as he ran past, an action that referee Gary Zielinski spotted. He quickly whistled a technical on Bradley. Same thing happened earlier in his career, Moore said. "I caught him with a good [dunk] when I was in Detroit," Moore said, "and he reacted the same way. He threw an elbow after I dunked." In fact, Moore said, "on the next play, [Jerry] Stackhouse went down and tried to dunk on him, and Bradley head butted him. That's how he plays."

Tim Buckley ofThe Deseret Morning News writes: After watching the Dallas Mavericks maul his Jazz on Thursday night, coach Jerry Sloan could not help but wonder one thing. The unstated suggestion: Why don't the Mavs have more wins than 50?"Our guys can't play much harder," Sloan said after a 117-94 loss to 50-28 Dallas. "That's who we are, and that's who we've been all year long. So, you can criticize us all you want. "But I've got to ask, 'Where have they been?' You know, I mean, with that kind of talent out there . . . there has to be something." The Mavs he saw Thursday, Sloan suggested, were just a bit better than the team his Jazz beat in two of three previous meetings earlier this season.

Tim Buckley ofThe Deseret Morning News writes: "They manhandled us all the way around," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said of the 50-28 Mavs, who have now won six in a row and six straight at home. "So, I can't say too much (negative) about our team (because of) that. "We fought back a little bit," Sloan added, "but we didn't have the staying power to get back in it with them again because they're just too tough for us." Cost to the Jazz: eighth place in the NBA's current Western Conference standings. Utah started the day tied with Denver and Portland for the eighth and final postseason position in the West. Now, with just three games to go in their regular season, the 41-38 Jazz have slipped to 10th — a half-game behind the Nuggets and Trail Blazers, who have four games remaining themselves, including a showdown with each other Saturday night in Denver.

Tom McEachin ofThe Ogden Standard-Examiner writes: Before every game, while players for both sides are shaking hands as they wander out to center court for the opening tip, Andrei Kirilenko heads out first, to shake hands with all three referees.It's his way of acknowledging the thankless job they have. "I just wish them a great game," Kirilenko said, "because I know that's a bad job. Everybody puts pressure on them." Kirilenko acknowledges he sometimes gets upset with the referees, but he understands there are two sides to every disagreement. "Referees are people," Kirilenko said. "They can make a mistake, and they will. And sometimes I'm mad at the referees. But that's their job."