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News » Jazz blow big lead, hang on

Jazz blow big lead, hang on

Jazz blow big lead, hang on NEW YORK ? Perhaps mesmerized by the venue, they hadn't won here since February 2004. They were coming off quite a fiasco, a blown 15-point lead in Saturday's home loss to Sacramento. And they knew a win Monday night would aid their cause for perhaps landing the No. 1 overall selection in next year's NBA Draft, as they were playing New York and they own the Knicks' 2010 first-round pick. No wonder Deron Williams, hurting as he was, refused to exit the stage. He instead stayed to help the Jazz hold on for a 95-93 victory over the 1-7 Knicks and open a four-game Eastern road swing by ending a five-game Madison Square Garden losing streak.

Williams had a season-high 16 assists for 3-4 Utah, which also got a 23-point, 14-rebound double-double from Carlos Boozer, an 18-point, 12-board double-double from Mehmet Okur and 23 points from Andrei Kirilenko that included 5-for-8 3-point shooting over a persistent Knicks' zone defense. "My back locked up in the second quarter," said Williams, who was so sore he rested on the floor late in the third period. "I probably wouldn't have played the second half," but (backup) Ronnie Price was out (with a sprained toe sustained in Monday's second quarter)," the Jazz point guard. "Nothing against (rookie point) Eric Maynor, but we needed this win and I wanted to try to stick it out if I could." He did, until the very end. The Knicks whittled a Jazz lead of 21 points early in the third quarter and 14 at the start of the fourth to nothing when Florida State rookie Toney Douglas drove past an obviously ailing Williams and ? with no cover help for Williams ? scored to make it 93-93 with one minute and 36 seconds remaining. "Well," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said, "you knew they'd come back in the ballgame, for some reason or another." Perhaps it's because of recent history, including a squandered 16-point second-half lead one week ago in Dallas. "I wasn't surprised," Kirilenko said, "because in previous game (against Sacramento) we had same scenario. So I was kind of ready for this." The difference, though, was that this time Utah had what it took at the end. The Jazz ? who next play Wednesday at Boston ? answered with Okur rebounding an errant jumper from Williams, going ahead to stay with 1:16 to go. "I just put up a shot," said Williams, who scored just five while hitting only 2-of-10, "and luckily he got to it." Fortunately for the Jazz they got three stops in the final 1:03 as well, with Al Harrington missing a 3-pointer, Ronnie Brewer coming from the side to block a Larry Hughes jumper from the free-throw line and Douglas catching back rim on a short-jumper under Williams. "It's a game of runs," said Boozer, who made 10-of-14. "They had the run at the right time, but we had the stops when we had to." The Knicks called a full timeout and a 20-second one too for a final play that started with 6.4 seconds left, leaving the Jazz guessing which way they might go. "I was expecting Al Harrington to get the shot," Boozer said. Offered Sloan: "I figured (Douglas) might end up with." The Jazz coach was right, as Douglas dribbled right, offered a fake and ducked under Williams. "I thought (Williams) got up and played him pretty well," Sloan said. Combined that with the clutch shooting of Kirilenko, who made 4-for-4 from behind the long-distance line in the third quarter alone, and the Jazz were able to overcome the mystery that's been the Knicks at MSG. "For some reason," Williams said, "we struggle against them (here)." Perhaps it really is because it's the world's most famous arena. "It's the mecca," rookie Wesley Matthews said. "It's everything Basketball." "It's a legendary gym," added Maynor, who couldn't help but look to the rafters when he walked in for the very first time Monday. "I think you have to appreciate stuff like this." Even Sloan, not necessarily a sentimentalist, has a fondness for the ol' place. He recalled before Monday's game how a light bulb once fell from the ceiling and burned the coat of an unlucky victim, and how a massive piece of steal hanging overhead once dropped near the Boston bench when he was early in his own NBA playing career. "That was scary," Sloan said. "That piece of metal would have cut the (Celtics) trainer in two if he had been sitting on the bench," he added, remembering having played here in the first half of a doubleheader. "He'd just gotten up." But all turned out well then, as it did -despite the scare ? for the Jazz on Monday as well. "It feels real good to get a win," Williams said. "We were in dire need of one." No matter how it happened. "A win is a win," the Jazz point added. "Good, bad, ugly ? it doesn't matter." e-mail:

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Added: November 11, 2009


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