SALT LAKE CITY — Three in a row, and definitely not in a good way.
If the Utah Jazz did that whole “Facebook thing” that’s how today’s status update might read, especially after Wednesday’s 102-91 loss to Atlanta at EnergySolutions Arena.
They’ve now dropped three in a row and they’re scrambling for answers.
Answers to why they play so poorly in the third quarter; why they struggle to defend the pick-and-roll and why they can’t stay healthy?
“We just didn’t have any energy,” reserve forward DeMarre Carroll said. “We didn’t play harder than they did. They played harder than us.”
Carroll, who hyper-extended his left knee in the first quarter but returned to give the Jazz (31-27) a second-half lift, said the combination of low energy and soft play on the defensive end is almost impossible to overcome.
“When you don’t do those things, it ends up in a loss,” he said.
The obvious question is, why? Why as in, why did the Jazz let the Hawks play harder? Why didn’t they play better to start the third quarter?
“I have no clue,” Carroll said. “It’s one of those things, everybody’s got to look in the mirror. It’s a pride thing. Every night we’ve got to come out and say, ‘We’re going to play hard no matter what.’
“I don’t know if it was (the lingering effects of Monday’s overtime loss to Boston) or what? We can’t dwell on losses.”
On the heels of Monday’s disappointing loss to the Celtics, the Jazz lacked sharpness right from the start against the Hawks. They fell behind 30-25 at the end of the first quarter and never again owned a lead.
They were outscored 26-18 in the third, fell behind by 20 and then rallied to cut Atlanta’s lead to single digits in the fourth quarter. But they never got closer than seven points.
Hawks’ center Al Horford had a big night, scoring 34 points to go along with 15 rebounds, three assists and five blocked shots. Teammate Josh Smith scored 24 points and added 14 rebounds and point guard Jeff Teague had 19 points and seven assists.
Atlanta (33-23) generated most of its offense by running the pick-and-roll, which opened a smörgåsbord of opportunities. The Hawks’ guards often penetrated Utah’s defense, then passed back to open shooters or dished off to Horford and Smith, who dominated the paint.
As a team, Atlanta shot 49 percent from the field and 5-for-17 from behind the 3-point line. The Hawks outscored the Jazz 54-46 in the paint and forced 13 turnovers, which led to 18 points.
“We’ve just got to keep working,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We’ve got to try different things. We’ve (got to have) a lot of energy. The on-the-ball defense has got to be better. Coverage on the big guy has got to be better.”
Certainly the Jazz could have used starting power forward Paul Millsap, who missed the game with a sprained left ankle. In January, when they played the Hawks in Atlanta, Millsap finished with 20 points, 13 points and five assists.
Millsap’s replacement Wednesday was backup Derrick Favors, who scored 17 points and had a season-high 15 rebounds.
Jazz center Al Jefferson finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds, but struggled to guard Atlanta’s pick-and-roll and was a big reason Horford was so effective.
Jefferson sprained his left ankle late in the game and was seen hobbling around the team’s locker room in obvious pain.
Carroll scored all eight of his points during a brief stretch of the fourth quarter. His 3-pointer at the 5:33 mark cut the Hawks’ lead to 90-82.
With losses to the Clippers, Celtics and Hawks over the past five days, the Jazz are desperate for a win, which could come Friday when they play host to the Charlotte Bobcats, who own the NBA’s worst record.