Utah Jazz: Lakers are latest victims of Jazz comeback kids
SALT LAKE CITY — They had that monumental Miami moment. Then there were those sweet rallies in Orlando, Atlanta, Charlotte and Portland.
But the Utah Jazz — perhaps the craziest Comeback Crew in NBA history — might have topped even themselves Friday night.
In the process, they certainly gave their fans — the same ear-splitting ones Kobe Bryant admiringly called "nuts" earlier in the day — a new favorite come-from-behind victory by storming back to stun the Los Angeles Lakers, 102-96.
And, yes, this double-digit-deficit-defying dandy ranks even higher than when they pulled a winning U-turn against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Jazz erased a 19-point, second-quarter Los Angeles lead — peanuts for these comeback specialists — and saved a final rallying hurrah for the end when they outscored the Lakers 11-0 in the final 2:13 to undo a bunch of Bryant-caused damage and a five-point L.A. advantage.
"We've played some pretty good teams and come back," Jazz guard Raja Bell said, "but we haven't played anybody with the resume of the Lakers and been able to come back, especially on our home floor where we've struggled a bit.. It was a good win for us, and I think we all now believe we can do it."
Their belief-turned-victory was met by a bellowing roar of approval by the majority of the 19,911 fans — the ones not sporting yellow-and-purple bandwagon gear — who turned EnergySolutions Arena into a madhouse as the Jazz continued one streak and snapped another.
Led by Deron Williams' clutch and MVPesque 29-point, 12-assist outing — including nine points and five assists in the fourth quarter — the Jazz improved to 12-5, won their fourth game in a row and snapped a six-game losing streak to the 13-3 Lakers, if you include the four-game second-round sweep last May.
"Our captain, our leader — that boy is something special, man," Jazz center Al Jefferson said after his own borderline special night, which included 20 points and eight rebounds.
"That's all I can say about him," Jefferson added. "He's something special, and he brought us home."
Yet again, and Williams had plenty of help, too.
Already an entertaining battle — featuring another stellar performance by the Jazz's Spark and Spunk bench —the grand finale of a fourth quarter was a spectacular display between two NBA elites, Bryant and Williams, who tormented each other's teams with tantalizing plays one after another.
Toward the end of the fourth, Bryant had a three-minute shooting spree the likes of which Jazz fans haven't seen since, oh, that's right, since C.J. Miles' 3-point bonanza in Portland or Paul Millsap's 46-point masterpiece in Miami.
"You knew it was coming," Miles said.
By the time Bryant turned Black Friday into Black Mamba Friday, he had drained three threes in a row and scored 14 consecutive points in 2 1/2 minutes to put the Lakers up 96-91.
Raja Bell couldn't contain him. Andrei Kirilenko was helpless against him. So Jerry Sloan double-teamed Bryant, and the Jazz defense held the Lakers scoreless in the final 2:32.
"We came out of it alive," Sloan said. "Looked like we were going to crumble a bit, but our guys kept fighting. That's the one thing that was really impressive for us. Keep battling, give yourself a chance. Doesn't make any difference who you're playing."
About one-fourth of the NBA can attest to that now. The Jazz have now won seven games this season in which they trailed at some point by double digits..
Williams helped spark the final Jazz rally by dishing to Millsap down low for a layup. D-Will followed that by draining a 3-pointer over Derek Fisher, tying it at 96-all.
Perhaps fittingly for Jazz fans, it was the player Bryant recruited but was spurned by in the summer who scored the seal-the-deal points.
Bell gave the Jazz a 98-96 lead after Williams tipped a loose ball to him, and Utah's savvy defender sank two game-clinching free throws with 11.6 seconds remaining.
All of that put the icing on the cake of a comeback the reserves helped spark in the second quarter.
Trailing by 17, Earl Watson connected with Ronnie Price on a fast break and the Utah Valley product soared through the air and pounded the ball down emphatically with his left hand.
"I gave that a 10," Jefferson said. "That was nice."
The Lakers followed with their own three-point play, but that Price dunk turned on the energy in the building. Watson scored a season-high eight points in that quarter and the Jazz went on a 25-6 run that turned things around in a big hurry.
Utah only trailed 50-46 at the half, setting the stage for an entertaining and exuberant second half despite 31 points from Bryant, 21 points and 11 rebounds from Pau Gasol and a 16-point, 11-board outing from Lamar Odom.
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