It can challenge them. It can draw the great out of them.
But beat them? No way.
"There's no shame in that," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said afterward.
Let's do away with any pretense.
The Jazz lost with honor. They tried. They didn't necessarily play their best they shot a mere 39 percent but what's wrong with losing if the other guys are superior?
In a playoff series that had leaned only one way to this juncture, at least the thing leaned both ways here. This is what playoff basketball should be. It was a bareknuckled fight on the floor, the crowd in the stands sucking in and blowing out with every possession, the lead on the board being swapped throughout the second half. Aesthetics may have been in short supply on occasion, but intensity was as long as the night.
In a matchup in which the Jazz have few advantages, they had one this time, an advantage home court that couldn't sustain them when You-Know-Who and You-Know-Who pulled their team out of the fire.
And anyone who saw it was fully aware there was a fire burning, when the Jazz led by nine points in the second half.
And then …
Well. Let's reiterate.
"You're looking at two of the best players in the game," Snyder said. "That's why that team is who they are."
Everyone had waited, wondered, wanted to see how the Jazz would respond in front of their home crowd, against an opponent that had its way with the Jazz in Oakland, never threatened, never even yielding a lead, not once.
The Jazz, then, were in bad need of some comfort, some confidence, maybe even some home cooking, in an environment that supposedly would give them at least the first two.
It did. But it didn't matter.
"Our crowd helped us with our urgency," Snyder said. "… For the most part our guys really dug in."
The Jazz tried to go after Golden State in an aggressive manner, egged on by Snyder, who had grown weary of watching his team in previous games fall hopelessly behind, then spend the rest of the clock trying to catch up. This time, it was pretty much the opposite.
Snyder had practically begged his players, outside of a sufficiently assertive Gordon Hayward, to push themselves, particularly at the offensive end, where too often they had been something wholly unacceptable, hateful even, to Snyder's way of thinking.
They had been tentative.
They had been double-clutching.
And then, they had been desperate, taking lousy shots.
That halted sometime during the second quarter of Game 3, when the Jazz looked like … themselves, again. Their he-who-hesitates-is-lost attack finally dissipated after the Jazz fell behind, 27-17. The same failings that had heretofore plagued them foremost among them, strangely inaccurate outside shooting plagued them, still. They shot just 28 percent in that first quarter.
But when they at last followed Snyder's urging and attacked the basket, driving into the paint, again and again, everything got better for them.
"Our team competed," Snyder said.
Shelvin Mack drove. Rudy Gobert drove. Hayward drove. Rodney Hood drove. Everybody drove, or at least tried. Five Jazz players scored in double figures Hayward (29), Gobert (21), Mack (11), Joe Ingles (10) and Boris Diaw (10).
They also played decent defense with the Warriors shooting just 44 percent.
It just wasn't good enough. Neither was the board work, where Utah got beat up, 51-42.
But the Jazz had something they never had in any of the other games a chance. A fat chance.
They lost, and they'll lose this series. But shame? There's none of that.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checkouts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM. Twitter: @GordonMonson.