Jazz fall to 8th in West with loss to Spurs

Loss to San Antonio and Dallas' victory means Utah may face Lakers in 1st round.
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You have to admit that for a Jazz team that hasn't won in San Antonio since the days of Davy Crockett, the prospect of entering the playoffs as a No. 8 seed facing the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round might not sound so bad.

With three games left in the season, the Jazz find themselves in that unwelcome position, losing 105-99 to the Spurs on Friday night at AT&T Center to drop a game behind both Dallas and New Orleans in eighth place.

The Jazz (47-32) will host Golden State tonight in a back-to-back set and hold tiebreakers over the Hornets and Mavericks should they end up with identical records. Dallas beat New Orleans 100-92 Friday and plays the Hornets on the road Sunday.

But the Jazz likely will need to win out, including Tuesday at the Lakers, to stay out of eighth and avoid a potentially early exit at the hands of the Lakers, who eliminated the Jazz in six games in last year's conference semifinals.

"We put ourselves in this position, nobody else did," Deron Williams said. "We lost tough ballgames, we had the injuries, but we're still in the playoffs, we still have a chance to win the last three."

"I'm more concerned about how we play," Carlos Boozer added. "It's not about who we face. It's about us. If we do a good job of doing our stuff, believing in each other and running our offense, running our defense, believing in one another, it doesn't matter who we play."

The Jazz's loss Friday was their fifth in six games overall and 23rd straight in San Antonio, where they haven't won since Feb. 28, 1999. Tony Parker led the Spurs with 31 points and seven assists while the Jazz couldn't get over the hump in the second half.

They trailed by 15 in the second quarter, came back to tie the game twice in the third quarter, but couldn't push into the lead. They closed within 78-76 with 10:17 remaining, but Roger Mason answered with two three-pointers for the Manu Ginobili-less Spurs.

After cutting it to 91-87 with 2:35 left, Parker drove for a layup as part of a three-point play, hit an 18-footer and split two free throws to put the Spurs back ahead 10. As good as he was early -- sparking a 17-5 run to open the second quarter -- Parker was better late.

"Tony Parker's tough to deal with," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "They set screens and give him a little daylight, he's quicker than the devil anyway and can get open. We had a tough time trying to deal with him. He was terrific getting on top of the basket."

Williams led the Jazz with 25 points and 10 assists, but Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko struggled all game. Boozer missed 7 of his first 8 shots and finished with 15 points and eight rebounds on 4-for-12 shooting. Kirilenko was 1-for-9 with four points.

"The playoffs will be here in a minute," Boozer said, "and for us we've got to get back on track, get our fire back and get ready for this postseason."

Boozer has averaged 13.3 points and 9.6 rebounds in 22 games since returning from knee surgery and a three-month absence. But he has shot only 44.3 percent and his recent struggles have raised questions about his playoff-readiness.

"The best thing about it is fortunately we're going to be in the playoffs and you get yourself ready to go in the playoffs," Sloan said, "and you can eliminate a lot of those thoughts, things that people have in their head."

"We've got to keep playing," Williams added. "Booz will work himself back in however he feels. We can't judge how he feels, only he can. Hopefully, he's playing 100 percent by then, we definitely need him to play 100 percent."

Sloan preaches never to shy away from the best and said his team wouldn't do so if it ends up playing the Lakers. He cited Golden State's upset of a 67-win Dallas team in the 2007 playoffs as evidence of what a No. 8 seed can do.

"If you have any pride in yourself," Sloan said, "and you have any pride in your organization as a player, then you'll rise to the occasion, be as good as you can be."



In short » The Jazz drop to eighth with three games left.

Key moment » Tony Parker drives for a three-point play after the Jazz close within 91-87.

Key stat » The Jazz are now 0-16 at AT&T Center.

Conference standings