In my youth I remember hard fought ‘dragonslayer' victories by the then up and coming Utah Jazz: they'd play a better team, give it their all, and persevere somehow. Mark Eaton would challenge a shot, Thurl Bailey would get the rebound and hand it off to John Stockton, who would run the length of the court and find a trailing Karl Malone for a back breaking And-1 layup. During my teen years some of the parts changed, but the result was the same. The Jazz, even now at the top of the mountain, would win almost all games in all gyms, even if Karl Malone was suspended by the NBA for some foul or something. During the Deron Williams / Carlos Boozer / Mehmet Okur / Andrei Kirilenko years we had plenty of dragon slaying victories. But this season we're just seeing more and more where the dragon just burns us to death. Worse still, this team is losing games to teams they just shouldn't lose to. For me the Milwaukee Bucks loss two nights ago was like this huge, psychological weight that really hurt. Probably more than it should. But it did.
As an optimist you like the idea of your scrappy, overlooked team going out there, playing up to the competition, and if they didn't win outright, they would at least win some respect from the fight. That's kind of what happened when the Utah Jazz nearly took the Indiana Pacers to overtime in their gym. The very next night the same Jazz team (no one got injured over the span of the Indy game) came out and looked very flat. So much so that they lost to the worst team in the league.
Within the span for 24 hours the Jazz almost beat the best in the NBA, didn't; and then lost to the worst. And you wonder why Utah Jazz fans are so crazy?
It was a tough pill to swallow. For me it was this mental breaking point. Even in this season where the head wants you to lose, you can't ever accept in your heart the desire to lose, and lose to the worst team in the league, and lose by so much.
This season the Jazz have been blown out quite a bit. Because of how the games are set up, and social convention, the other team lets off the gas pedal when the game is decided and allows you to catch up - usually. So the number of games that finish with a final margin of 20 points or more is actually much less than the number of blowouts your team is involved in. That said, the Jazz have still finished the game with a final margin of being down 20 or more points 10 times this year. (Quick Math Break! The Jazz have lost 39 games, and 10 of those 39 losses have been of 20 or more points. That means, kids, that the Jazz lose by 20 or more points once every four losses!)
- Feb 28th, Jazz @ Cavaliers: -20 points
- Feb 7th, Jazz @ Mavericks: -22 points
- Nov 24th, Jazz @ Thunder: -22 points
- Dec 16th, Jazz @ Heat: -23 points
- Nov 9th, Jazz @ Raptors: -24 points
- Nov 8th, Jazz @ Bulls: -24 points
- Mar 3rd, Jazz @ Bucks: -26 points
- Jan 18th, Jazz @ Timberwolves: -26 points
- Dec 6th, Jazz @ Trail Blazers: -32 points
- Dec 20th, Jazz @ Hawks: -33 points
The Jazz have been blown out by the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, the two finalists last season. They were also blown out by the Portland Trail Blazers and Atlanta Hawks when they were in the tops of their conferences earlier this year. And the Jazz have been blown out by the Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves - really good teams when healthy, and all of them were potential contenders before the season started. Yes, 6 of the 10 games were in November and December, but we're still getting blown out. And the last two most recent blowouts were against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Milwaukee Bucks. And they both came in the same road trip.
And they both are non-playoff teams right now.
I can accept not being a dragon slayer this year, or at least not having that reputation right now - even if the Jazz have also defeated the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder once each this season. I can totally be okay with losing to teams better than we are. I do have trouble with the loss to Milwaukee. Not because I think the Bucks are inherently bad, or a sorry franchise. Their owner aims for mediocrity every year and that's his business. They're not trying to win a title, and their stated goal is to make the playoffs every year in the East. (Sound like any franchise you know?) They weren't trying to be bad this season, after all, they spent a lot of money to get mediocre starters who could probably coax out the necessary 40+ wins it takes to make it in the East. But they didn't gel this year and there were injuries, and now they are the worst team in the league.
And they still beat us.
And they blew us out.
And they did it without three rotation players in Larry Sanders, Carlos Delfino, and Ekpe Udoh. Sure, it did take Nate Wolters playing like a young Luke Ridnour, and Ersan Ilyasova to drop 31 points on 13/14 shooting - but it still happened. Watching (and re-watching) the loss was like observing a very slow velocity, but high impact collision. The defense was sluggish, and the team was worse, shooting only 39.2 fg%.
The fans here at the site in the game thread, and the fans tweeting on twitter, almost immediately went to the same place. It was ludicrous, and the collective coping method was to make a joke about it. It was a laugher on the court, but no one in the Jazz lockerroom was laughing after the game. Even though my mind wanted a loss, my heart died a little bit as I watched the game.
It was . . . bad.
Perhaps not that bad. But still bad.
Perhaps it was a breaking point for other fans as well. You support someone willing to fight. But on that night it looked like our team had just accepted that it was going to be ‘one of those nights'.
The remaining road trip is another three games, tonight against the Washington Wizards, a night off, then a double header facing the New York Knicks then the Philadelphia 76ers. That last game against Philly has to be a win. Otherwise you'll get another post like this to have to read.