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Seemingly on track three weeks ago after back-to-back wins over Orlando and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Jazz have instead turned into a train wreck.
New Orleans' journeyman Devin Brown engineered Utah's latest crash-and-burn -- a shocking 91-87 loss Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena that continued a lottery-like stretch for the Jazz.
They have lost three straight games.
They have lost three out of four at home.
They have lost seven of 11 games since beating Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Dec. 12.
If the playoff started today, the Jazz would not qualify.
"We have to regroup somehow," Deron Williams said. "... I didn't expect to be in this position this late in the season. I thought we'd be playing our best basketball come this time, not regressing."
Thirty-four games into the season, Utah is two games over .500 and ninth in the West.
In this loss, New Orleans rode Brown's career-high 30 points to just its third road win of the season.
Carlos Boozer finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Jazz, but he played only 32 minutes because of first-half foul trouble.
Williams contributed 17 points and 11 assists, including the 3,000th of his career. But his turnover in the final minute ended Utah's last chance.
Trailing 86-82, the Hornets' David West turned the ball over and in the open court, the Jazz had a numbers advantage. But Chris Paul intercepted Williams' pass to Andrei Kirilenko.
From there, New Orleans milked the clock before Paul's uncontested layup with 27 seconds left iced the win.
"He just made a great anticipation," Williams said. "I should have thrown it up to Andrei -- up high. He's a lot taller than Chris. That's the play he's probably able to make more than one on the ground. Just a bad pass by me."
Along with his critical steal, Paul scored six of his 12 points in the final 4:36 to salvage an otherwise forgettable night.
He had two points in the first half and didn't make a basket until late in the third quarter. He missed 10 of his 15 shots, but didn't care after the Hornets' victory.
"As terrible as we've been on the road ... I think we showed some grit," Paul said. "We fought hard to win this game."
The Jazz, now just 12-6 at home, started well.
They hit six of their first 10 shots, including two three-pointers by Memo Okur and another by C.J. Miles, while building a 32-20 lead.
When coach Jerry Sloan took Williams out of the game, however, Utah's offense stalled.
In a six-minute span without Williams on the floor, the Jazz managed four points, one field goal and were outscored, 11-4.
They never had control of the game again.
"I thought we came out with a lot of energy," Williams said. " ... Then we kind of lost it from there. They stepped up their defensive pressure -- took us out of some things."
Defensively, the Jazz didn't have an answer for Brown, a former teammate who went 5-for-8 from the three-point line.
"They spread us out all night and hit threes," Williams said. "I thought Devin Brown played out of his mind."
Still, Utah owned a 51-44 lead at halftime. But the Jazz scored 11 points in the third quarter, when they suffered through a seven-minute scoreless stretch that ultimately doomed them.
"You take a beating when you lose and rightfully so," Sloan said. "But that's where you learn to fight through things, too. ... Now, if we get in a situation where we don't stay together and start going at each other, then it becomes very difficult to overcome."
In short » Devin Brown scores a career-high 30 points and New Orleans hands the Jazz a third straight loss.
Key moment » Tied at 79 late, the Hornets score five quick points on offensive rebounds.
KEY STAT: The Jazz start 6-for-10 from the field but finish shooting only 37.9 percent. They go 5-for-20 in the third quarter.