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Jazz squander early lead, fall in Miami

How do you lose after having a 19-point lead? The Jazz can show you how.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With just under two minutes left in the first quarter, the Utah Jazz looked like they were really starting to turn a corner.

Utah held a 35-16 lead over the Miami Heat. It was hardly a basketball game. At that moment, life was great for Jazz fan. Two straight wins after trading for a beloved former Jazzman and a 19-point lead over a decent Miami team. Sure, there was a lot of basketball to play, but Utah could at least hold onto a lead like this, right?

No. The answer to that question is no.

Not only could Utah not maintain a solid lead after building a 19-point advantage, they allowed Miami to score 20 unanswered points. A game that seemed well on its way to a blowout after 11 minutes was a closely contested game before three minutes had passed in the second quarter.

Still, the Jazz fought. They held a 55-53 halftime lead. Miami wasn’t able to engineer a large enough to pull away, never leading by more than six. During the fourth quarter, the teams traded baskets and traded leads (six lead changes and two ties in the final 5:37 of the game). Every basket felt like a change in who was taking control of the game.

In the final minute of the game, both sides went cold on offense. Jae Crowder missed a 3-pointer with the game tied at 100, followed by back-to-back long-range missed from the Heat. With 20.6 seconds left, Donovan Mitchell missed a go-ahead shot in the lane. That miss left the fate of the game in the hands of future Hall of Famer Dwayne Wade.

With 3.6 seconds on the clock, Rudy Gobert was called for a foul on Wade as he drove to the hoop. Wade drained both free throws and Donovan Mitchell missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. Final score: 102-100, Miami.

And that’s how you blow a 19-point lead.

It’s clear that the Jazz still have plenty to work on, though there are several positives that can be taken away from this game. Utah never gave up (if you exclude the part where they stopped playing basketball in the first and second quarter), fighting until the end and executing in clutch situations. Ricky Rubio scored eight of his team-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, including a clutch 3-pointer which was the play that tied the game at 100.

Rudy Gobert also played well the entire night with 12 points, 18 boards, four assists and three blocks. And while Hassan Whiteside got the better of Gobert on the stat sheet, getting 23 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks of his own, the Miami center was -8 in plus-minus while The Stifle Tower was +19 — second only to Dwayne Wade’s +21.

Outside of Rubio and Gobert, however, there was little positive. The other three starters scored 48 points but shot just 36.5 percent on 52 shots (which amounts to nearly 60 percent of the team’s 89 field goal attempts). Mitchell, specifically, was 8 of 24 and 1 of 7 beyond the arc and was blocked several times going to the hoop.

Kyle Korver and Derrick Favors, playing the role of key reserves, struggled to make a positive impact. Korver finished 1 of 6 from the field (1 of 5 on threes) and was -18. Favors had five points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks, but was also a team-worst -19 on the night.

The Jazz had a chance to even up their record at 12-12, but instead fall to 11-13. Their next game will be at home (Utah is a whopping 2-6 at home this season) against the San Antonio Spurs.