SALT LAKE CITY — Ryan Seacrest, seated on the front row next to Utah-born star dancer and country singer Julianne Hough, attended Monday's Utah Jazz game.
It might be a good thing for the Jazz that his former "American Idol" co-star didn't tag along. Simon Cowell might've ripped Utah to shreds for its less-than-inspiring performance against a subpar Detroit Pistons team.
It's also too bad one of Hollywood's hottest new couples didn't stick around for the second half when the Jazz salvaged a sluggish showing by edging the Pistons, 102-97 at EnergySolutions Arena.
The Jazz, with six players in double-figure scoring, made staying until the final buzzer worth it for those of the 19,911 fans who gutted this one out.
"I'm glad that (fans) loved it," Jazz guard Raja Bell said. "I don't think any of us were too concerned. We're a team that's been in a lot of tight games this year and we've found ways to do it, so we just kept plugging away."
Especially in crunch time, when the Jazz have so often shined this season.
Bell, with family in attendance from Miami, had the key bucket in the final minute as he nailed a clutch go-ahead 3-pointer with 50.7 seconds left.
"It was huge," said Jazz point guard Deron Williams, who led Utah with 22 points and 10 assists. "It was a big shot, a timely shot that we needed."
The play was intended to be a pick-and-roll for Paul Millsap, who had 15 points and 10 boards, but the power forward set Bell up as the Detroit defense collapsed in on him. Bell's eyes widened as Rip Hamilton wandered away to help.
"Paul just made a really good pass. . . . I was just hoping he found me because I was wide open and he did," Bell said. "He put it on my hands. I've played for many years now. I' ve shot a lot of shots. I like to shoot those. They're fun to shoot."
Hitting in front of his dad, who gave him some helpful shooting advice a couple of weeks ago, made it all the sweeter.
"It's always fun to make it when pops is here," Bell said. "I've got to hear about it on the ride home."
Better than hearing about a miss, of course.
But the Jazz — who also got 16 points from Al Jefferson, 15 from Andrei Kirilenko and a welcome-back 12 from C.J. Miles — needed four more clutch shots to wrap this win up.
Following a Greg Monroe dunk that made it a one-point game with 27.1 seconds to go, Bell and Williams then each sank a pair of free throws to clinch the close-call victory.
And somewhere in Utah, Seacrest smiled, no doubt.
"We work on shooting free throws every day," Millsap said. "When you get into the game, it's a little pressure, but you've got to block it out and mentally be prepared to shoot them."
That late success from the stripe played a big factor in the Jazz (24-11) securing their 11th straight win over the Pistons (11-23). Utah hit all 10 attempts from the charity stripe in the final three-and-a-half minutes, including four by Millsap.
The Jazz talked before Monday's game about how dangerous of a team the Pistons are despite their lousy record.
And Detroit looked like it was determined to snap its losing streak in Utah, which now stands at eight losses in a row.
Forward Tayshaun Prince led all scorers with 26 points to go with five assists and four rebounds. Ben Gordon added 14 points with three treys and Tracy McGrady — yes, he's still in the league — looked like the All-Star T-Mac as he flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 11 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds.
Rip Hamilton, who added 15 bench points, even gave Detroit a lead at 91-89 with 2:59 remaining when he hit a 13-foot jumper.
At the time, Utah looked like it might be on the verge of its worst loss of the season.
"I know their record doesn't reflect it right now," Bell said, "but they're surely a dangerous team and in a tight ballgame especially, because they have so many weapons. Obviously, we were having a hard time stopping them."
Detroit outscored Utah 28-25 in both the first and third quarters, and the Pistons even held a six-point edge at one time.
"They were matching us shot for shot," Williams said. "(We) couldn't seem to stop them; they couldn't seem to stop us. But when it came down to it we got the stops we needed. We made the plays. We hit the free throws."
Detroit still had a chance to force overtime, like it did here last year before losing, but McGrady hucked up an off-balance 3-pointer that badly missed with 6.8 seconds remaining.26 comments on this story
Williams then iced it with a pair of free throws for the final score that thrilled the non-fair-weather Jazz fans who stuck around.
Utah, which struggled on defense for the first three quarters, held Detroit to just 18 points on 30.4 percent shooting in the final period. The Jazz also struggled from the field (31.3 percent) in the decisive fourth, but they hit 13-of-14 free throws in the final 12 minutes.
"We're definitely confident in the fourth," Williams said. "I just want to see us be confident in the first. You know, stop messing around."