SALT LAKE CITY - These last two months, the 76ers' words have been euphemisms.

An inability to defend is merely a lack of communication; a broken-down offense is missing only rhythm.

After Saturday night's 97-76 loss to the Utah Jazz, Sixers swingman Andre Iguodala said his team doesn't have a good rhythm within its offense. As if the Sixers, who shot 33.8 percent from the field and scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, are just waiting for a better beat, something more in sync with their style.

But at what point is the problem deeper?

"My job is to go out there and try to make it work every day," said Iguodala, who scored 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting. "That's what I do, so I just go out there and try to make it work."

The 21-point loss wasn't what the Sixers had in mind.

They were hoping for something they rarely have done this season: play well.

The NBA schedule provided a natural break, four days between games, four days to breathe before the start of this trip.

In that time, the Sixers hoped they had crossed a bridge away from the disaster that was the first third of the season and were headed toward something better.

But inside a sold-out EnergySolutions Arena, the Sixers dropped to 7-22. They have lost 16 of their last 18 games. Utah improved to 17-13.

On Monday night, the Sixers continue their trip at the Portland Trail Blazers.

Saturday, the second half of the fourth quarter looked like wasted time: The Sixers took outside jumpers as if they were in pregame warm-ups and the Jazz were methodically running through their offensive sets, waiting for the final buzzer.

Utah runs its offense the way it must look on a white board: equal spacing, angled cuts, direct-line passes. And within that pinpoint offense, the Jazz set screens as if trying to move a piano: not just exchanging positions, but actually separating the defender from a teammate.

"I'm not surprised that we played badly," Sixers coach Eddie Jordan said. "I mean, I thought we had a poor fourth quarter. I'd like to see us play better, obviously. And we're working on it. . . . It's an eight-point game going into the fourth, and we weren't playing particularly well or poorly; they just knew how to raise their game and get to another level."

With 3 minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the game, Utah point guard Deron Williams, who finished with 27 points, nailed a three-pointer to give his team an 86-66 lead.

Sixers power forward Thaddeus Young scored a team-high 20 points, the only starter to shoot better than 50 percent from the field.

The Jazz dominated all but the first 10 minutes of the game.

With 2:27 left in the first quarter, things were looking decent, almost good for the Sixers. They were ahead, 19-15, and had just forced Utah to call a time-out.

But in the next 3:34, the Jazz went on a 17-0 run.

You could tell even as it was happening, that run was the game: filled with a lack of communication on defense and poor rhythm on offense.

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.