After having their longest winning streak in 12 years come to an end, the Utah Jazz face a daunting task in trying to get back on track.
Utah looks for its first victory in Miami in six years Saturday afternoon as it faces a Heat team getting MVP-caliber play from star Dwyane Wade and coming off a win over the defending champions.
The Jazz (41-24) had their 12-game run halted Wednesday night with a 100-93 loss to Atlanta in the third game of a season high-tying five-game road trip. They were on their longest win streak since 1996-97, when they won a franchise-record 15 straight twice en route to their first NBA finals appearance.
Utah, which won 112-100 in Indiana on Tuesday night, trailed the Hawks by 13 at halftime before outscoring them by 15 in the third quarter. The Jazz, though, managed just 18 points in the fourth in suffering their first loss since Feb. 8 at Golden State.
“We’ll see what kind of character we’ve got,” forward Carlos Boozer said. “If we’re an elite team, we’ll bounce right back. We won’t just sulk. They took it right to us from the tip. We fought back. Then the whole fourth quarter was a great game, a great battle.”
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan refused to blame playing on back-to-back nights for his team’s struggles in the final quarter.
“No, we didn’t run out of gas,” said Sloan, whose club has moved into first place in the Northwest Division. “We didn’t come with gas early. Nobody cares what you did last night; you just come and play hard.”
Deron Williams led Utah with 20 points and nine assists, failing to record double digits in assists for just the second time in the last 14 games.
“We got a little complacent at the end of the game,” Williams said. “We had stretches where we played well and where we played bad throughout the game. They got a lot of transition baskets at the end of the game, and that got the crowd into it.”
Miami’s crowd was into it Wednesday, when Wade hit the game-sealing 3-pointer with 34 seconds left to lift the Heat (35-29) to a 107-99 victory over Boston. Miami, in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, has won three straight and six of seven at home.
Wade continued his post-All-Star tear with 32 points, seven assists and four steals. The NBA’s leading scorer with 29.7 points per game, Wade is averaging 36.1 points, 10.5 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 2.8 steals in the last 12.
He broke his own franchise record Wednesday by scoring in double digits for the 79th straight game and tied a team mark with his 20th consecutive game scoring at least 20.
“We have to protect home court,” Wade said, “by any means necessary.”
The Heat have done just that over the past few seasons against Utah. The Jazz have lost their last five visits to Miami and dropped nine of 10 overall in the series.
Wade has scored at least 20 points in all nine of his appearances against the Jazz, including 23 in a 93-89 win at Utah on Dec. 3.
The Jazz end their trip Sunday night against Southeast Division-leading Orlando.