I’m stunned beyond all belief over the Jazz’s 4OT loss to Atlanta Sunday afternoon.
The four hour game featured sloppy basketball from both parties, but overall ended in disappointment for Utah. I’m not down on the Jazz. They played their hearts out and had terrific opportunities to close out the contest, but the ball just didn’t drop.
I will ask this: why didn’t Coach Corbin play his youngins in any of the overtime periods? I thought, especially after the win in LA, the Jazz coaching staff had turned a corner and learned they could depend on Kanter, Favors, Burks, and co. to carry us home down the stretch. Logically speaking, does it make more sense to play poor Big Al for 52 minutes, particularly when the guy looked like he needed an oxygen tank just to sit on the bench during timeouts, or should Corbin have played Favors after it was obvious the starters were (to put it delicately) gassed to uselessness?
It seems to me that Corbin was worried about tomorrow’s game against New Jersey more than winning against Atlanta. And while I’m just a typical TV-coach, it seems obvious that fresh legs were needed against the Hawks … Watson? Didn’t play. Evans? Nope. Burks? Well, he got some time once the starters eventually fouled out, but nobody passed him the ball and he’d been sitting for almost an hour. Kanter? Nadda. Favors? Subbed in for Big Al, but didn’t have much time to make an impact. Tinsley? Popped in for a moment in one of the OTs, but then disappeared just as quickly. Surely Carroll must have posted some minutes after playing spectacularly in the third period … nope.
Instead, Coach Corbin elected to stay with his vets, even though by triple OT they could barely get a shot up over the rim. And while they played admirably, I feel like our youngins could’ve gotten the job done more efficiently. At the very least they could’ve provided a spark, or given the starters a much needed rest if not salvaged them for tomorrow’s bout against New Jersey (a game that looked like a sure-fire win a mere 24 hours ago, but now feels like a blowout waiting to happen). Putting Burks on a red-hot Joe Johnson (who scored a season high 37 points), might’ve made all the difference. And that’s not hindsight speaking, just fact – even the human pogo stick might’ve given Miles a little bit of slack by playing a mere 30 seconds, giving CJ a chance to catch his breath.
At one point, I began searching the NBA rules on my phone, frantically trying to find out if a rule was in place that didn’t allow substitutions in overtime periods. I didn’t find any and, unless I’m mistaken, remain confident that no rule exists.
I didn’t expect the Jazz to win in Atlanta (I even gave them permission to take the night off, which they did for the entire first half). I’m not disappointed at the loss, but the way the loss came about. This was a game Utah should’ve won. They had it in the bag numerous times … I’m not down on my team. They’ve won six out of their last seven (still very impressive) and only lost in Atlanta after four friggin’ overtimes. That’s awesome. But in the end, a loss is a loss, and my job is to analyze what went wrong in that particular loss.
My blame-finger points to Coach Corbin and his staff. They let this one slip away because they didn’t believe in their youth (again), even though said youth are already proven in their ability to win big games. And I don’t want to here the excuse, “He was saving them for New Jersey.” If that was the case, then why the hell did Corbin and co. wear their starters down to useless nubs? That just doesn’t make sense to me.
In any case, I thought Utah had another stellar night as a unit. Seven figures posted double digits tonight, with Big Al leading the pack at 28 points. The third quarter was awesome as the Jazz battled back from a 15 point half time deficit and positioned themselves for the upset. Except, Atlanta hung around. Utah failed to make the big shots down the stretch (and kept jacking up treys like they were pocket change), and eventually relinquished the victory. Milsap had a chance to win the game, but missed a go-ahead jumper; Harris, likewise, missed shots at the end of 2OT and 3OT that could’ve won the game. And then Johnson hit a three-pointer in 4OT that put the game just inches away from the Jazz’s fingertips.
I also need to give a shout out to Carroll – you da man. He hustled, played tough and downright stole the Jazz bench’s thunder during his all-too-brief 10 minutes of play. He even hit a three pointer!
Tonight, the Jazz didn’t need leadership, or experience to carry them home against an already tired Atlanta team (playing the third game of a back-to-back-to-back). They needed athleticism, speed and finesse. All of which was seated on the bench waiting for their chance to play.
At least we won six straight.
In case you missed the game, here are some highlights.