The lost season is almost over.
After suffering a record-setting midseason collapse, the Jazz were officially eliminated from playoff contention Friday night with a 96-85 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at EnergySolutions Arena.
It marks the first time since 2005-06 that the Jazz haven't qualified for the postseason and just the fourth time in the past 28 years for an organization long associated with Jerry Sloan and playoff basketball.
A struggling Utah (36-40), a team that has dropped seven consecutive games, can now only fight for a winning season. And by falling apart again during the second half this time being outscored 54-37 by the Lakers Utah will set two NBA records for futility. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Jazz will become the first team in league history to start 15-5 and 27-13 and not make the postseason.
"It's disappointing," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We thought we had a chance to fight our way back in it. We thought we could get things figured out to get back in the race. But it just never turned."
C.J. Miles scored 24 points to lead Utah, while Al Jefferson added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Kobe Bryant's 21 points topped the Lakers (54-20), who won their ninth consecutive game and 17 of 18.
Miles said the Jazz's most straightforward goal each season is to make the playoffs. But after winning just nine of their past 36 games, a year dominated by frustration, dramatic change and unexpected turmoil highlighted by the resignation of coaches Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson and the shocking trade of All-Star guard Deron Williams will now end April 13 with a home game against Denver.
"It's been a tough, up-and-down season," Miles said. "Especially the second half."
An alley-oop slam dunk by Miles off an Earl Watson assist made it 26-13 Utah with three minutes left in the first quarter.
But the Lakers soon closed in, ending the first half on a 10-0 run and pulling within 48-42 at halftime.
A Utah squad down to just nine healthy players and relying on recent NBA Development League call-up Kyle Weaver to fill out its roster struggled with fouls throughout the game. Jefferson and Millsap each collected four before the fourth quarter arrived, and both spent the end of the third period sitting on the bench.
The Lakers used the duo's absence to pound away.
Los Angeles grabbed a 64-62 lead after Shannon Brown converted a fast-breaklayup via a Ron Artest assist. A Steve Blake steal and ensuing layup followed. And after throttling the Jazz during the third quarter, outscoring Utah 29-16 and turning halftime defensive adjustments into a forward surge, Los Angeles took a 71-64 lead into the final period.
"We started playing defense, and they turned the ball over a few times," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "It changed the game."
Once the Lakers started running, they never stopped.
Opening the fourth with a 12-1 run, Los Angeles suddenly morphed from a dead-legged team playing the second game of a back-to-back into a surging, playoff-bound squad unleashing the most dominant ball in the league after the All-Star break a squad just 1 ½ games behind first-place San Antonio in the Western Conference.
Utah's surge was over. The Lakers were again on top, again ending the Jazz's season.
"This thing is going to turn around for us, and I think everyone in the locker room knows that," Jefferson said. "It's motivation for everyone to go and work on their game this summer."
Briefly • Jazz legend and Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton attended the game, receiving an ovation before the start of the fourth quarter.
R IN SHORT • The Jazz fall 96-85 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday at home, ending Utah's playoff hopes.
Key stat • Los Angeles outscores Utah 54-37 during the second half.
Key moment • The Lakers open the fourth quarter with a 12-1 run.