Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The game was played at EnergySolutions Arena, not at Churchill Downs.
It was simply an NBA regular-season contest, not the Kentucky Derby.
And none of the participants go by the name of Secretariat or Seabiscuit.
But Raja Bell's postgame equestrian metaphor aptly summed up the Utah Jazz's latest come-from-behind win — a 94-83 home victory over the Sacramento Kings that happened despite another slow start.
"I liken it to some of those race horses, you know," Bell said. "They didn't come out of the gates well — and that might be who we are."
This race changed drastically when Jazz coach Jerry Sloan let Spark & Spunk, the European Twin Towers and Mr. Hot Hand out of their stables at the same time.
After some shoddy execution that led to 37.5 percent shooting and a two-point deficit by the end of the first quarter, Sloan went with an interesting lineup that makes up for a lack of offensive punch with plenty of energy.
The slightly strange-looking lineup helped the coach pick up his 1,200th win of his coaching career.
The guard combo of Earl Watson and Ronnie Price provided their usual spark and spunk, the red-hot C.J. Miles continued his sizzling ways and European big men Francisco Elson (Netherlands) and Kyrylo Fesenko (Ukraine) added a much-needed power boost down low to jump-start the sluggish Jazz.
Those five reserves quickly helped turn this game around by galloping to a 9-2 second-quarter start that helped the Jazz take the lead and momentum for good.
"I thought our second group kind of gave us some life in the first half," said Sloan, who returned to the team after a two-game absence. "It seemed like they ran the floor much better. ... Our second unit, I thought, executed and got some decent shots, gives you a chance. Plus they got after (the Kings) a little defensively."
Miles gave the Jazz another brilliant shooting performance, and especially in that pivotal second quarter when he scored 13 of his team-high 20 points on 5-for-7 shooting.
The other four combined for 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots and two steals during the quarter. Meanwhile, the 4-9 Kings were held to 4-for-22 shooting during the period in which the Jazz seized control by outscoring their guests 29-15 to take a commanding 49-37 lead into halftime.
"They definitely came in and changed the energy level out there," Bell said.. "That's what good second units do, and we've got a good one."The Jazz improved to 10-5 and won their second game in a row thanks to the push and refocus given by that group.
Even so, four starters finished scoring in double digits, led by Al Jefferson's 19-point, eight-rebound effort. Deron Williams added 12 points and nine assists, Paul Millsap chipped in 11 points and nine boards, and Andrei Kirilenko contributed 10 points.
But the bench received all the postgame attention, and deservedly so on this night.
All told, the reserves totaled 37 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, five blocks, four steals with only two turnovers.
They also gave plenty of hustle and heart.
"That's what we do, second squad, we hustle," said Fesenko, who had only played five minutes in the past three games. "Maybe we're not as efficient on offense, but we try to do our best on defense, try to rebound.
It certainly did on this night, as it has in many of the comeback wins from bigger deficits and slower starts.
"They have been instrumental in a lot of our wins," Williams said. "The first group is still sluggish to start games. Their group gets out and runs. They run and they get after people defensively, something we need to get that first group to do."
And he wasn't horsing around when he said that.
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