Utah Jazz notch fifth consecutive comeback win to cap remarkable trip
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Shortly after a Charlotte Bobcats' fan loudly yelled "This is ridiculous!" at his team and anyone who'd listen at Time Warner Cable Arena, Al Jefferson had a simple message for Deron Williams at the end of the Utah Jazz's game Saturday night.
"I told him, 'Bring us home,'" Jefferson said. "And that's what he did."
Man, did he ever — and in his own ridiculous way.
With time expiring on the shot clock and only 0.8 seconds remaining in yet another wild game, Williams burst toward the basket and softly lofted up a floater.
"I knew it was good," Williams said, "as soon as it left my hand."
So very good for the Jazz, who experienced deja vu all over again — and again and again and again and, yes, again — when it dropped in.
The clutch shot proved to be the game-winning bucket in their latest scintillating, come-from-behind victory — a 96-95 doozy over the Bobcats, who once led by 19 points before becoming the latest Utah victim to have a huge double-digit lead snatched away.
"It's fun to watch them fight back," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
There's been no short supply of fun or fight with this team lately.
Williams' clutch play helped bring the not-to-be-denied Jazz home from their brutal Eastern Conference journey with a five-game winning streak and a 4-0 record in what has to be considered the greatest road trip in franchise, if not NBA, history.
"It's really been a special week," Jazz guard Raja Bell said. "I've never been a part of a team that's done this night in, night out for five straight nights."
Nobody in the league has — not since the shot-clock era began in 1954, at least.
In their unfathomable Tour de Comeback Victory, the Jazz fought back from double-digit deficits in Miami (22 points), Orlando (18), Atlanta (11) and, now, Queen City (19). Oh yeah, and they did it in a pair of back-to-back sets with only one day of rest/travel in between.
Combined with their double-overtime rally at home against the Los Angeles Clippers (18), the Jazz have beaten five teams in a row in a week after spotting them a combined 88 points.
"That's just what we like to do," Williams said, tongue-in-cheek. "It's our plan, our game plan, we just let teams get up on us 20 and then, you know, come back on them."
Though they apparently tricked 3-7 Charlotte into their trap, this one had trap of another meaning written all over it for the 7-3 Jazz. Not only had they just polished off three Eastern Conference powers, but they also have a division showdown with Oklahoma City on Monday.
Sure enough, Charlotte, despite its record, stormed to a 10-0 lead before the Jazz could tell if that really was Michael Jordan in attendance. (It was, by the way.) The Bobcats led by 19 before the first quarter ended and went to the locker room up 16, having soundly outplayed a lethargic Jazz team whose dashboard fuel gauge warning light was blinking.
"It looked like we were a little tired," said Sloan, whose team only scored 33 points on 34.2 percent shooting in the first two quarters to continue a dangerous trend. "We had trouble running the floor, and they were so much quicker than we were to begin with. It looked like a real long night."
The Jazz showed signs of life out of the locker room, quickly trimming Charlotte's lead to 51-40 thanks to a 7-2 run. But the Bobcats managed to maintain that double-digit safety net, aside for a few brief moments, into the fourth quarter.
At the 9:30 mark, the Jazz received their wake-up call. By the time it was over, they had outscored Charlotte 63-46 in the second half and had five players in double-figure scoring, topped by Jefferson's 19.
The bench helped whittle the lead down to five on a Kyrylo Fesenko tip-in, and the starters — with C.J. Miles in for Raja Bell — patiently and precisely did the required dirty work down the stretch while the Bobcats and their upset fans wondered what happened.
Jefferson gave the Jazz their first lead of the night at 92-91 to cap a 6-0 run with a three-point play at the 2:30 mark.
And after falling behind by three with 58.9 seconds remaining on one of Nazr Mohammed's many excellent plays — he had a monstrous night of 22 points and 20 boards —the Jazz finished off the Bobcats with a four-point chokehold.
Jefferson hit a seven-footer to bring Utah within one. Williams, who had 17 points, nine assists and multiple clutch plays, followed that by blocking D.J. Augustin's shot with 24.3 seconds remaining.
The Jazz point guard then loaded his seemingly invincible team on the D-Will Express and, as requested, brought them home to the win column.
Just like they knew would happen all along, right?
"We were calm the whole time," Williams said.
At one point, he looked up and told Jefferson, "We're down 10." Big Al responded by asking, "You had any doubt?"
Nobody doubts the Jazz now.
"That," Williams added, "says it all right there."
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