SALT LAKE CITY — Even with just four games to go now in their 2009-10 NBA season, there is no telling what opponent the Jazz might draw for the first round of the playoffs.
But if it somehow happens to be Oklahoma City and what happened Tuesday night at sold-out EnergySolutions Arena is any indication, it could be one doozey of a series.
Utah beat the Thunder 140-139 in overtime with a point total that marked its highest since a December 1990 game against Denver, doing so behind Deron Williams' career-high 42 and game-winning jumper, Carlos Boozer's 28-point and 15-rebound double-double and one of the greatest escape acts since Houdini was worming his way out of Chinese water torture cells.
It was the 10th straight home win for the 51-27 Jazz, who moved alone into second place in the NBA's Western Conference, half a game ahead of Dallas, Denver and Phoenix.
Had Utah lost, the team would have fallen into fifth place, half a game behind those three — and Oklahoma City would have found itself only a half game behind the Jazz.
"We knew the significance of this game, just as they did," Williams said, "and it was a fun game to be a part of."
Especially when things fall like they did for the Jazz on Tuesday.
Williams dropped in the winner with 1.1 seconds left in OT, taking a handoff from Boozer and rising to knock down his 20-footer over the outstretched hands of both Jeff Green and James Harden.
"He had the ball, he wanted the ball. There's not any problem with that," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said of Williams, who topped his previous 2007 career-best by one. "He felt good enough, and he liked the play we were going to run, so we ran the play to give him the basketball. He got it and had a good look at the basket."
On the other end, Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant — who finished with a game-high 45 points, a Jazz-opponent high for the season — tried to answer with a 3-point attempt from 29 feet out.
But C.J. Miles was credited with a block on Durant, whose immediate reaction indicated that for the life of him, he couldn't figure out how in the world the Jazz swingman managed to get away without being called for a foul.
So Foul? "Nah," a sheepish-looking Miles said. "They don't call 'em, it's not a foul.
"He shot it, and I was running by and put my hand in there just to disrupt it. I took my arm out of there so fast and kept running. I didn't give him a chance to hit me real good to make it like a foul."
Yet he still appeared to hit way more arm than anything else.
"I don't know about that," Miles said when asked if he got all ball, "but I didn't foul him."
Or at least he didn't get called for it.
The Jazz, who visit Houston tonight, led 129-126 after two Wesley Matthews free throws with 17.1 seconds remaining regulation.
Green, though, tied the game with a 3-pointer over Boozer with 8.3 seconds to go.
Williams tried to break the tie with a pullup jumper, but he missed and Matthews couldn't get the follow to go.
Durant turned and tried to heave a 41-footer over Miles with 0.7 seconds remaining in the fourth, but it missed the mark and prompted a five-minute overtime for the ages.
"That's what the playoffs are going to be," Boozer said after Utah improved to 29-2 at home this season when scoring 110-plus points.
"That's what tonight was — it was an instant classic," he added. "Both teams did a great job out there fighting for each possession. We had guys diving on the floor for loose balls, fighting for every rebound. It was a great game."110 comments on this story
With the win, one also which moved the Jazz to 9-0 at home when all five starters score in double-figures, Utah avoided being swept in a regular-season series for the first time since the Thunder did it as the Seattle SuperSonics in 1982-83.
"It was definitely great for our confidence to beat them," Williams said, "because we might see them the first round.
"It feels like the playoffs already, with how the West is," he added. "Just a crazy time right now."