"We were dead tonight, " Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "Tonight was as tough a game as we've had all season. Look at AB (Alec Burks) out there trying, we just didn't have a lot of juice."
To Utah's credit, Friday was a game it never completely conceded. Snyder appeared to wave the white flag with seven minutes remaining, emptying his bench. But that group went on a 19-3 run and cut Orlando's lead to 97-90 with less than two minutes remaining. But that was too little, too late. The Jazz are now 0-3 on a difficult Eastern Conference road trip, with the Atlanta Hawks remaining on Sunday. 0-4 is a real possibility.
So how did Utah get here, which is to say how did the Jazz lose to what many perceive to be a lesser Magic team, after playing the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat to the wire?
There are obvious answers. Utah was missing Rudy Gobert and Rodney Hood against Orlando, and being sans its best defender and one of its best perimeter talents proved to be too much against the Magic. Without Gobert — missing his second consecutive game with a sprained ankle — the Jazz had issues defending the rim. Hood's absence forced Burks into the starting lineup and left the second unit devoid of the depth it's enjoyed this season.
Just as important, Derrick Favors picked up two early fouls. And not having him on the floor rendered Utah's defense, well, defenseless in the first quarter. By the end of those 12 minutes, the Jazz were in a 33-15 hole that eventually became 39-17 a few minutes into the second period.
"It's tough when you come out as slow as we did tonight, " Utah point guard Trey Burke said. "We have to find ways to come out with more energy ... more intensity. We can't allow ourselves to dig in holes like that. We have to get ready for Atlanta and find ways to come out with more energy."
Several times the Jazz fought back. But on the tail end of a back-to-back, the legs weren't there and the shooting proved it. Utah shot 39 percent from the field, and missed 17 of its 25 attempts from 3-point range, The Jazz suffered 17 turnovers and again lost the rebounding battle without Gobert in the lineup.
Meanwhile, Orlando shot the ball well when the game mattered most. The Magic put five players in double figures, led by Evan Fournier's 21 points. Tobias Harris was difficult to contain, scoring 19 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. The Jazz, for their part, were led by Burke and Gordon Hayward, who scored 16 points each. Burks had 11, but went just 2-13 from the field — his worst performance of the season.
Utah drops to 4-5 overall, its first time under .500 since its opening night loss to the Detroit Pistons. The Jazz are physically tired, injured and banged up. But they know they have one more game on this road trip, and want to salvage any good feeling they can.
"It's an important game for us, " Favors said. "I don't want to put pressure on us to win the game, but it's important to play well. We lost two close ones, and then this tonight. Atlanta's playing good so we have to be ready to play, so we don't go 0-4 on this trip."