MILWAUKEE, Wis. — The Utah Jazz were overdue for one of the ever-dramatic team's patented come-from-behind victories.
It had been almost three weeks, after all, since they registered one of their eight riveting rallies out of double-digit deficits.
But after Friday night's 29-point blowout loss in New Orleans, the Jazz were also badly in need of another kind of turnaround performance — or at least a couple of positive possessions.
It took a quarter or so, but this Comeback Crew accomplished all of that and so much more Saturday night at the Bradley Center.
Shaking off Friday's Bayou bashing and another slow start — who woulda thunk it? — the Jazz turned an early 12-point deficit into a timely 95-86 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
"Tonight," Jazz center Al Jefferson said, "we knew had to bounce back, take control of the game."
And, after falling behind by 10 in the first few minutes and trailing 39-27 in the second quarter, they eventually did just that.
It so happened they also played tough defense, rebounded with authority and stayed composed as a team in the face of adversity.
"Everything was much better," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
The Jazz improved to 19-9 with their second solid win over the 10-15 Bucks in three weeks by outrebounding Milwaukee 46-31 and holding the home team to a meager 40 second-half points.
Utah's defense was especially impressive in the fourth quarter, when the Jazz stifled the Bucks by allowing them only 18 points on 6-for-16 shooting (37.5 percent) while closing out the bounce-back win.
That defense, according to Williams, made all of the difference in the Jazz playing like a completely different team than the one that no-showed in the Big Easy.
"We took last night personal," Williams said of Friday's 100-71 loss. "It was an embarrassing loss to get beat by (29), and we wanted to put forth a better effort tonight."
That increased effort was especially evident on the offensive boards. While opponents have taken advantage of the Jazz on that aspect of the game so many times this season, Utah was the aggressor in crashing the glass after its missed shots.
The Jazz finished with an overwhelming 14-3 advantage on offensive boards and converted those into 25 putback points. The Bucks, one of the NBA's better offensive rebounding squads, only scored five second-chance points.
No Jazz player ended with double-digit rebounds, but Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Andrei Kirilenko each snatched nine boards to complement their solid offensive efforts. Jefferson scored 18, Millsap added 15 and Kirilenko chipped in a dozen points.
C.J. Miles also hauled in seven rebounds off the bench with 16 points.
"We did a god job of boxing out," said Williams, who topped Utah with 22 points and 11 assists. "It was definitely an emphasis coming into the game was keeping them off the boards, and we were able to get some offensive rebounds off them that actually won the game for us."
Backup big man Francisco Elson also had three timely offensive boards for the Jazz, and the backup big man finished with four points and four rebounds in a spirited 16 minutes.
Elson made one of the hustle plays of the game as well while the Jazz made their final surge in the fourth quarter.
After a bad pass by John Salmons sent the ball past midcourt, the 7-footer outraced Milwaukee's Drew Gooden to collect it. Elson then connected with Kirilenko for an easy dunk that followed a 3-pointer by Deron Williams to put the Jazz up for good at 84-80.
Moments later, the Jazz wrapped up a game-clinching 13-2 run on a Jefferson tip-in.
Kirilenko jokingly said he had to rescue Elson on his play.
"Ask him about his spaghetti legs," Kirilenko said. "He started like falling down. I was like, 'Oh, my man, I have to help him."
Elson disagreed with Kirilenko's humorous description of his legs.
"I saw Andrei running. He wanted it so bad because he said he could windmill it," Elson joked. "But he did a garbage dunk. ... I was just glad Andrei was there or else I would've just taken off from the 3-point line."
Ex-Ute Andrew Bogut, who missed Utah's 109-88 win at EnergySolutions Arena last month, led the Bucks with 19 points and nine rebounds. But it wasn't enough to contain Utah, which continues its pre-Christmas road trip Monday in Cleveland.
"We had our chances early on in the game," Bogut said. "We know that they're going to make a run in the fourth quarter. They're probably one of the best fourth quarter finishing teams in the league.17 comments on this story
"Once they start getting momentum in their favor, they are very tough to beat."
The Jazz are especially tough sometimes, crazy as it may be, after their opponents take that dangerous double-digit lead.