Carlos, Gordan, Deron and Big Rob all were out, and Greg left early.

But The Boss was back.

No, not George. No, not Bruce.

Larry.

With Jazz owner Larry H. Miller back in his usual Delta Center courtside chair for the first time since leaving that very seat to berate his club for its pitiful performance during a Nov. 14 loss to the New York Knicks, the Jazz merely beat the best team the NBA currently has to offer.

Utah's 92-78 victory over Detroit not only handed the 15-3 Pistons just their second road loss of the season, but also restored a little bit of the luster the Delta Center has lacked since lads named John and Karl endeared themselves to Jazz fans in first-name fashion.

"It was nice to see him," Jazz forward Matt Harpring said of the boss, whose white cardigan sweater-adorned presence was not only business casual-compliant but also seemingly a source of much-needed inspiration for a 9-12 team that until Monday had lost all but three of 11 at home.

His absence at eight previous Delta Center games did not go unnoticed.

"Larry forced us to play even harder," said forward Andrei Kirilenko, whose season-high 22 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and four blocked shots were quite a complement to teammate and ex-Pistons big man Mehmet Okur's game-high 24 points, 12 boards, three assists and two blocks.

"He's a very loyal fan," added Kirilenko, who shook off an intestinal virus to play Monday, "and we need him."

What the Jazz needed more, though, was a quality win.

Only three of Utah's first eight wins this season came against opponents that presently have a winning record, and two of those came in its first two games of the season.

They got one Monday, beating a Detroit club that was thoroughly flustered during a fourth quarter in which the Jazz outscored the Pistons 29-12.

And they did it oh-so-shorthanded.

Carlos Boozer was present and accounted for Monday, back from his home in Los Angeles, where he has been rehabbing the strained hamstring that has kept him out all season.

Usual starting shooting guard Gordan Giricek, meanwhile, missed his second straight game due to Achilles tendinitis, and rookie starting point Deron Williams did not dress due to dizzy spells brought on by an ear infection.

Also wearing a suit Monday was big man Robert Whaley, who has a six-stitch cut on his right hand.

Then there was starting center Greg Ostertag, who exited early due to right-knee pain for a third time this season.

Because of all that, the Jazz went with their ninth different starting lineup of the season — this one featuring Milt Palacio at point, Devin Brown again at shooting guard and Kirilenko in his re-claimed spot at small forward over Harpring.

Despite the makeshift look, it was the Pistons who were out of sync.

"A lot of things didn't go our way," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "Part of that was them (the Jazz). Part of that was us."

The biggest parts for Utah, which went into the fourth quarter down three at 66-63, were Kirilenko and Okur, who combined for 17 of their points and eight of their rebounds over the final 12 minutes.

Not to be overlooked was the contribution of big man Jarron Collins, who with Ostertag out wound up logging 35 minutes and pulling down a season-high 14 boards.

That effort help the Jazz out-rebound the normally better-on-the-boards Pistons 55-27.

"The coaches told us before the game they were a great offensive-rebounding team," Detroit's Tayshaun Prince said of the Jazz. "I don't think we listened."

In the end, all they heard were roars the sort of which Utah hasn't enjoyed in a while.

Okur's 3-pointer with just more than eight minutes to go snapped a 72-72 tie and gave the Jazz the lead for good, sending a Delta Center crowd of 18,275 into something of frenzy not felt during the team's first three outings in an ongoing five-game homestand.

"I thought our fans were (more) exciting and involved in the ballgame," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said, "than they have been in a long time.

"Our players respond to that."

Okur's trey, in fact, sparked a Jazz run, and the Pistons never got closer than within eight over the final five minutes.

At the tail end of that decisive swing was a technical on Detroit big man Ben Wallace, leading to a free throw from Okur followed by a Kirilenko layup that made it 82-72 with 5:39 to go.

It was just one moment of frustration in a night of many for the Pistons.

"It was (expletive)," Wallace said of the game's officiating. "I'm sick of this (expletive). I ain't got no more comment."

The Jazz, though, said plenty afterward.

Much revolved around the appearance by Miller, who before the game suggested he was away so he could get himself back together after his embarrassing behavior in the Knicks game.

"It's good to see Mr. Miller back," Collins said. "The team has missed him."

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Not nearly so much, though, as they missed winning the way they did Monday.

"We are a real inconsistent team," Kirilenko said, "and a performance like this makes us happy."


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com