PORTLAND, Ore. — Beforehand, Jerry Sloan was celebrating just how well his Jazz were getting along.
"We seem to be playing happier than we've ever played in a long time," he said.
The ball was being shared. The offense was producing points inside. Most importantly, the Jazz were winning.
Afterward, following one of the most incredible comebacks in franchise history, Sloan and his club had to be downright giddy.
Utah rallied from 25 down with just less than seven minutes to go in the third quarter to beat Portland 93-89 in overtime of a late-starting ESPN-televised game at the Rose Garden.
"Well obviously it was a terrific comeback for us," said Sloan, who in November 1996 had his Jazz bounce back from 34 down at halftime to beat Denver — still the largest comeback from the half in NBA history — and in December 2006 had his team rally from 21 down at the start of the fourth quarter to win at Atlanta. "You always have a chance if you stay with it."
"A lot of teams in this league probably wouldn't have done that, being down by 25," starting power forward Carlos Boozer added. "But we did a great job of staying together as a group."
Boozer rebounded a Deron Williams miss and hooked it around Marcus Camby at the buzzer to force overtime at 83-83, then scored three more in the five-minute extra session.
"He was huge," Williams said of Boozer, who also hit 1-of-2 freebies with 12.3 seconds to go in OT. "I thought the shot (the last regulation by Williams) went in, and then it popped out. He made a big rebound, and a great shot to send it to overtime."
Brandon Roy struck first for Portland in overtime with a 3-pointer, but the Jazz answered with a Kyrylo Fesenko dunk, a Boozer bucket inside, another Fesenko dunk and a Williams jumper before Roy finally hit another 3.
With Utah up 92-89, one last trey try by Roy rimmed out with 5.9 seconds remaining and C.J. Miles gave the Jazz the final four-point cushion they needed by hitting 1-of-2 free throws with 4.8 seconds left.
Boozer led the Jazz with a 22-point, and a career-high 23-rebound double-double, and Williams had an 18-point, 12-assist double-double.
Utah, down 64-39 before a Paul Millsap basket with 6:45 to go in the third, trailed 73-60 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Jazz appeared doomed after Brandon Roy missed two free throws late in the fourth, only to rebound the second miss himself, get fouled and hit both of the next pair to make it 82-76.
But Kyle Korver responded with a 3-pointer to keep Utah in it, setting up Boozer's eventual rebound of Williams' miss.
"This is a big win for us," said Williams, who switched to cover Roy late in the game, making a huge difference defensively for the Jazz. "To be down the way we were and be able to fight back and hang on there speaks a lot about our maturity.
"You just saw our ability to fight."
The win was an enormous boost for the 36-19 Jazz, who tonight face Atlanta at home.
Northwest Division-leader Denver beat Boston on Sunday, but Utah stayed a half-game back of the second-place Nuggets in the NBA's Western Conference.
With the victory, the Jazz also:
finished 4-0 on their post All-Star Game road trip;
improved their road win streak to seven, matching the fourth-longest in franchise history;
improved their overall winning streak to four;
won for the 13th time in their last 14 games, and for the 17th time in their last 19 outings; and
swept their four-game regular-season series with Portland for the second time in five years.
"We're feeling really good," Williams said. "Hopefully we can keep it up."
Doing it shorthanded Sunday made things even more difficult for Utah, though, ... Already missing starting center Mehmet Okur, the Jazz were counting on starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko to play some power forward too.
Kirilenko, though, exited in the second quarter due to back spasms and didn't return.
He doesn't plan to play tonight against Atlanta, and his absence Sunday — Sloan praised Kirilenko just last Friday for being the primary impetus behind Utah's recent winning ways — hurt the Jazz until Utah found eight points, six rebounds and two blocks from seldom-used backup center Fesenko.
"It was a fun win," Sloan said, "because our guys finally got in and did things to help each other."
NOTES: Kirilenko also missed six games earlier this season with a strained lower back, which he has a history of. "Same as usual," Kirilenko said. "It will take a couple days." ... Williams hurt his right knee in the first half.162 comments on this story
He didn't stop playing, but did ice the knee once on the bench following a regular rotation sub-out. ... The Jazz played their second straight game without Okur, who remained in Utah following Friday's birth of son Yigit, so backup power forward Millsap again started and Boozer again shifted to center. The Jazz expect Okur to play tonight, but Sloan wasn't sure he'd start: "Hopefully he's worked out some or tried to do something. If he hasn't done any work I'd be reluctant to play him very much." ... Jazz CEO Greg Miller's Twitter message Saturday, the one-year anniversary of Jazz owner Larry H. Miller's death: "I miss you Dad. I rode my bike 64 miles in your memory today. Thanks for everything. RIP." Miller was 64 when he died. ... Traded to Memphis last Thursday, ex-Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer hopes to return this season after partially tearing a hamstring in his Grizzlies debut Friday. "We thought it was going to require surgery. But (team doctors) told me it depends on how I react to treatment," Brewer told The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal. "To me, it's disappointing. I let the team down and the city down. There was so much (hype) for me to come and be an instant fix for the problems on the bench." ... The Jazz are now 6-2 on major national cable TV, 2-2 on ESPN.