It's been a theme throughout the Jazz's postseason, a kind of tent-revival, chapter-and-verse call for a little belief, a little faith in the face of untimely injuries, a short roster and long odds. Make that a lot of belief, a lot of faith. Somebody -- was it the '69 Mets? -- once said that those two agents are precisely what precedes the miracle. Sometimes, they produce it.
Tuesday night at Staples Center was not one of those times.
The Jazz believed, and believed some more, they huffed and they puffed, and never quit, but, at the end of Game 2, there was only a double-barreled blast of disappointment and defeat, again, at the hands of the Lakers, 111-103.
Hallelujah went to hell.
Alongside Kyrylo Fesenko's game.
Ever notice how Mehmet Okur suddenly transforms into a much better player when he doesn't play?
It was the eighth straight playoff loss for the Jazz here in L.A. in the last three postseasons. It was the 10th playoff loss overall through that span to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
So, how's everybody doing now? Do the Jazz yet trust that they can beat the Lakers?
"I hope so," said Deron Williams, "or else we'll be going home early."
They're going home for a bit of hope in Game 3.
Williams said something before Game 2 that sounded even more ominous, that sounded more like concession than confidence, though he wasn't necessarily intending it that way: "The better team is going to win this series."
We all know what that means.
The Lakers were the better team Tuesday night, just like they were Sunday afternoon, by just a few numerical breaths.
The Jazz gave up too many easy baskets in transition and otherwise to L.A. And they missed too many easy baskets themselves, managing to shoot better from distance than from under the rim. But they played honorably, and they played hard. They trailed at the end of the first quarter by four points, at the half by 12, at the end of the third by 10, and charged hard in the fourth.
Doubt, or frustration, has to be creeping into the Jazz's psyche. L.A. is not Denver.
With a healthier Bryant, with superior length all around, with top-drawer coaching, and with last year's championship experience already tucked away, the Lakers are not going to blow apart the way the Nuggets did.
With two of the NBA's best players -- players who know what a title requires from them -- in Bryant, who had 30 points, and Gasol, who posted 22 and 15 boards, the Lakers have the leadership the Nugs lacked. They had 20 turnovers, but they also knew the price of doing what the Nuggets did -- letting Game 2 slip away on their home court -- would be steep, complicating and elongating this semifinal affair.
There's another thing, attendant to that. These Lakers play defense. Kobe said they're better at that end this season than last, on account of Ron Artest.
When Carlos Boozer posts up, there's an elbow in his back. When Wesley Matthews spots up, there's a hand in his face. When Williams plows toward the basket, communal resistance awaits. The Jazz shot just 39 percent.
"They pay a lot of attention to me," the point guard said. "When I go in there, there are three or four guys. They're long across the board."
Williams added he's fully aware his team now looks to him to lead it out of its formidable hole.
"I feel the pressure," he said. "I know I have to have a big series for us to win."
But it will take more than Williams, more than teamwork, more than plucky, gutty play now.
It will take a ... well, you know ... the M-word, the thing that belief and faith precede.
hosts the "Monson and Graham Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at