NEW YORK — After what happened earlier in the week, with tough-luck losses in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Chicago, Utah Jazz fans might not have been able to handle another late-game heartbreaker.
Luckily, that didn't happen.
Then again, that was about the only merciful thing that happened Saturday night.
If there's one bright side to Utah's ugly and lackluster 113-84 dud against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, it's that the Jazz didn't squeeze their loyal supporters through an emotional ringer at the end of the game.
Unlike those first three setbacks in this road trip from L-L-L-L, however, the Jazz didn't blow another late-game lead.
This one was over before the halftime performers even warmed up.
"It's embarrassing when you lose like that," Jazz forward Derrick Favors said.
"Disappointed" was a word used by Utah coach Tyrone Corbin after the debacle, which can only brag that it's not as bad as the 45-point Houston humiliation.
Gordon Hayward, one of only three Jazz players in double figures, described the walloping as "another poor effort."
Al Jefferson hinted that the players' derrieres might've been sore on the flight home from the Big Apple after falling behind by 17 at the half and by as many as 32 to an undermanned Knicks club.
"Tonight, we just got our butt kicked," Jefferson said after scoring seven points with just four rebounds. "I don't know if it was fatigue or what the situation was, but they just kicked our butt."
Utah jumped ahead 11-4 after a Big Al bucket and 3-pointers from Mo Williams, Randy Foye and DeMarre Carroll.
Until Enes Kanter hit a 3-pointer at the end to make it a 29-point loss instead of a 32-point thrashing, that was about the highlight of this night for the visitors.
"We came out ready to play. We got off to a great start, played with a lot of energy," Jazz forward Marvin Williams said. "But it seemed like once they woke up, everything just started falling for them. They were really aggressive. They did what they had to do."
And the Knicks did that again and again and, well, you get the point.
Speaking of points, New York had three separate double-digit scoring runs, including a 15-0 spurt that quickly wiped away that early Jazz lead and put the Knicks up 19-11.
In the second quarter, New York had a 10-0 burst to go ahead 41-31.
In the third quarter, the Knicks' 10-0 surge put the Jazz in a 69-42 hole.
Just for fun, the home team gave New Yorkers one final eight-point blitz for a 98-69 advantage.
That just put the final touches on the Jazz's worst road trip since the team went 0-5 on a woeful cross-country journey in 2011, preceding the resignation of Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan, Deron Williams being traded and the bottom falling out of the franchise.
"It's been a long trip, man," Marvin Williams said. "I think everybody here's excited to get back home and play in front of our fans, sleep in our beds. We didn't do what we set out to do."
Utah fell to 32-31 on a night when the starters — not counting Paul Millsap, who sat out with knee inflammation — combined to score a paltry 28 points. Yes, 28 points in the entire game. Mo Williams led the first five with eight points but only had four assists, and it got progressively worse with the other starters.
Despite being on this slide, including losses in seven of eight games, the Jazz remain in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoff picture. Utah is now tied with the Lakers at 32-31 — having blown a five-game lead it held on Feb. 21. But the Jazz won the season series and have that tiebreaker advantage, but L.A. hosts Chicago today and could overtake the Jazz with a win.
There are consequences to bad bounces and flat showings.
"A bad road rip for us," Hayward said. "We couldn't really afford to do this. We just made it that much tougher on ourselves."
As for the Knicks, they improved to 38-22 despite playing without Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, who missed the excitement with knee injuries.
J.R. Smith had MSG patrons eating out of the palm of his hands, with an array of long balls (4 of 8) a crowd-approved, double-clutch dunk in the fourth and a game-high 24 points.
Steve Novak played like Larry Bird reincarnate with 20 points, including 5-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc.
Even Raymond Felton looked like All-Star material with 15 points.
The Jazz, meanwhile, shot 38.5 percent and were led by Alec Burks' 14 points off the bench. Hayward had 13 points and Kanter added 11, including his first-ever 3-pointer.
It wasn't nearly enough.
"I think we just probably ran out of a little gas," Favors said. "We played three close games — not to make no excuses — but they just came out and played with a lot more energy."
Corbin let his team know (again) that they'll get clobbered if the players try to feel sorry for themselves — or don't play hard. He admitted being disappointed that the Jazz didn't show the fight they usually show.22 comments on this story
And he didn't want to hear about this being the fourth game in four cities in six nights or it being the second night of a back-to-back — or any other excuses.
"That's the NBA. You've got to find a way to fight through those things. This team has been resilient all year. We're disappointed in the trip," the Jazz coach said. "We're disappointed in the loss tonight, but it's not over for us. We'll be back. We'll lick our wounds tonight and tomorrow and be ready to go Monday."
Mercifully, that one against Detroit is at home.