TORONTO - DeMar DeRozan had a few choice words for Al Jefferson when two tired teams trudged back onto the Air Canada Centre floor for the third overtime period Monday.
"I told him it was his fault we were playing," DeRozan said, laughing.
Laughing was about all the Toronto Raptors guard could do after dropping a 140-133 loss to the Utah Jazz in triple overtime — a game that was in Toronto's grasp until Jefferson drained just the second three-pointer of his career with 2.2 seconds left in regulation to make for a long night.
"It would come against us," DeRozan said, when told it was Jefferson's second three.
DeRozan scored 37 points, Jose Calderon finished with 20 points and 17 assists and Linas Kleiza added 20 points in the Raptors' fourth straight loss.
Andrea Bargnani finished with 19 for the Raptors (1-6), in their first triple overtime game at the Air Canada Centre since Feb. 23, 2001.
Paul Millsap scored 34 points while Jefferson finished with 24 points and 17 rebounds for the Jazz (4-4).
"It got to the point, it was funny, I had to laugh," DeRozan said. "When (John) Lucas hit that three (to tie the game with eight seconds left in the second ovetime), I just looked at the scoreboard and started laughing. You see other people go through situations like this but when you go through it, it's definitely entertaining."
DeRozan admitted though that when Jefferson drained that three, it seemed nothing would go Toronto's way. It's been tough for the team to remain upbeat as the losses continue to mount, he said.
"It's tough because everybody in here wants to win," he said. "That's our whole goal, coaches are stressing to us... we're just seven games in."
The Raptors, playing without Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields and Alan Anderson, led from the outset Monday, taking an 87-82 lead into the fourth quarter and then stretching that to a game-high 11 points with seven minutes to go in regulation.
The wheels fell off in the final minutes of regulation as the Jazz whittled away at Toronto's advantage before Jefferson's three sent the game to overtime.
"We were shorthanded but guys came back and fought. They left it on the floor," said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. "It did not go our way but our guys fought. Anyone who says that these guys in that locker-room — as shorthanded as we are — didn't fight, didn't see the basketball game."
The Jazz had a four-point lead midway through the first five-minute extra period before a huge dunk by DeRozan with 23 seconds left put Toronto up by two. Jefferson replied with a jumper to tie the game three seconds later, sending it into a second overtime.
"The guys just hung in there, they did a great job of just hanging, fighting and scratching," said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. "We made mistakes but we stayed together, kept supporting each other and that's what you're going to need on the road."
The Raptors never led in the second overtime, but Lucas's three with 7.5 seconds left was good enough to send the game into a third extra period tied at 125 apiece.
A three-pointer by Millsap followed by a jumper by Gordon Hayward put the Jazz up by six with 1:33 left in the game, sealing the hard fought victory for Utah.
"It's tough because we needed one and we couldn't finish," said Calderon. "We had a few chances to win the game but they were good down the stretch."
The Raptors could have used their injured trio on such a long night. Lowry missed his third straight game with a sprained right ankle, Fields is nursing a tender right wrist and Anderson sprained his left foot in Saturday's loss to Philadelphia.
Casey said keeping the team's spirits up has been a major endeavour.
"That's why as a coach we're trying to be upbeat, positive, teaching, nurturing moreso than berating and the guys are responding," Casey said. "Each game they've had a bad stretch and they've always bounced back. Now we've just got to narrow that gap as a young team."
The Raptors face a tough turnaround. They're scheduled to play the Pacers in Indianapolis on Tuesday.
"The pressure of the road schedule we have is daunting, if you look at it through the whole stretch. I told the guys, we've got to take it one game at a time," Casey said.
Bargnani got off to another strong start, scoring 10 points in a first quarter that saw Toronto take a nine-point lead.
The Raptors had a 28-26 edge on the Jazz going into the second. Kleiza, who was playing his second game back after missing four to attend to a family situation, couldn't miss in the second, and his three-pointer with just over a minute to go in the half put Toronto up by eight.
A Mo Williams three cut Toronto's lead to 57-52 at halftime.
Foul calls killed Toronto in the third as the Jazz went to the free-throw line 17 times, draining 15 shots. The Raptors still managed to lead by as much as eight in the period and took an 87-82 advantage into the fourth.