SALT LAKE CITY — Rookie Derrick Favors came away from his first Utah experience as a Jazz player a bit wowed about the EnergySolutions Arena atmosphere.
"The crowd," he said, "it's crazy."
Though he thought there were too many Boston Celtics fans in the building, Jazz newcomer and NBA veteran Devin Harris also came away with a favorable first impression of his new avid and audible supporters.
"They were great," he said.
Wait until the New Jersey transplants hear how the place explodes when the home team actually wins.
Despite a gutsy outing by the struggling Jazz and what Harris described as a "monster" game by center Al Jefferson, the visiting Celtics spoiled the home debuts of Utah hoop fans' new favorite players with an entertaining 107-102 victory.
"It was a good game," Harris said. "I thought we fought hard, especially after that big first quarter that (the Celtics) had. We've just got to be a little bit better defensively down the stretch."
Harris played a big role in helping the Jazz bounce back from an early 13-point hole and a 30-21 deficit after the first quarter.
In his third game with Utah, the Jazz's starting point guard scored 19 points — including several bursts to the basket for buckets — and dished out five assists.
But it was Jefferson who played the biggest role in the turnaround as Big Al continued his red-hot ways by putting up huge numbers — 28 points and 19 rebounds — in leading the Jazz's charge.
Andrei Kirilenko scored 18 points, Paul Millsap added 17 and Favors chipped in nine off the bench to spark Utah's comeback bid.
Favors' introduction to the Utah crowd included a pair of powerful putback dunks in the fourth quarter that not only gave the Jazz a one-point lead but also had to have made fans giddy with excitement about his potential.
"The crowd and atmosphere, it was just crazy out there. I wasn't used to that. It's very different in New Jersey," said Favors, who was picked by the Nets third overall in last summer's NBA Draft. "They've got a great crowd, a great fanbase (here), and I think that's what kept us in the game. It kept me going."
Unfortunately for Utah, Boston's wide array of weapons kept the Celtics going despite the surge by the Jazz.
Ray Allen (25 points), Paul Peirce (21 points) and Rajon Rondo (18 points, 11 assists) each made clutch plays down the stretch. Late pressure jump shots by Allen and Rondo were especially fatal to Utah's upset hopes in the final minute.
"They're a top team in the East for a reason," Harris said of the 43-15 Celtics. "They always have an answer. You have to knock them dead. They're not going to give us the game. We've got to go out and take it."
Though his team lost for the 16th time in the past 21 games, Jazz coach Ty Corbin came away with a positive feeling about his squad.
"I can't be disappointed in the effort," said Corbin, whose Jazz fell to 32-29. "They did a great job coming out and laying it on the line. It's a good ballclub in Boston. We played hard but we didn't play particularly smart in some situations down the stretch."
The Jazz were still within striking distance of pulling off the shocker late, trailing 101-99 after a three-point play by Millsap.
But Allen, who helped Boston overcome an early eight-point lead by nailing three first-quarter 3-pointers during a 25-4 spurt, took a pass and swished an off-balanced 23-foot shot with 53.5 seconds remaining.
Utah responded with a Jefferson jumper, but he missed an and-one opportunity and then Rondo made the Jazz pay by sinking a 15-footer to put Boston up 105-101 with 24.1 seconds left.
Harris split his ensuing free throws, but Peirce clinched it by nailing his two freebies with 11.8 seconds to go.
"I felt offensively we were great. We were getting everything we wanted," Harris said. "Defensively, we didn't get enough stops to win the game.76 comments on this story
"A team like that, the Celtics," he added, "is used to hitting shots and executing down the stretch. You have to take them out of their comfort zone, and they got good looks at the basket and knocked them down."
The Jazz will have a couple of much-needed days of practice today and Wednesday before resuming their three-game homestand Thursday against Denver.
"We've just got fight through it. We're making strides. We're getting better, cohesively," Harris said. " I think guys came out and really played hard tonight and really fed off the crowd. It was an excellent effort. We just didn't have enough to get the W."