SALT LAKE CITY — Andrei Kirilenko almost miraculously sent the Utah Jazz's 103-101 loss to the Denver Nuggets into overtime on Thursday night.
But he missed his last-second attempt to tie the game, and it was a microcosm of the Jazz's seventh straight home defeat.
Utah had so many opportunities to either take control against Denver or put the Nuggets away — and never could.
Kirilenko's last-second miss will be most remembered from Thursday's game. He stole an in-bounds pass from a careless Kenyon Martin with one second left in the game after Devin Harris hit a 3-pointer to make it 103-101. Martin appeared to be attempting to get Kirilenko to touch the ball while the Nugget forward stood out of bounds, and Martin lost control of it.
Kirilenko scooped up the ball, but never had full control of it. His shot missed as time expired.
"I didn't really expect it," Kirilenko said. "I tried to be aggressive on the ball. As soon as I seen he started losing the ball, I tried to grab it. I knew there was only one second (left) and I tried to convert to shot right away. I think Kenyon Martin's hand was still on the ball, and I kind of lost it in transition. I wish it would have been a nice play."
Kirilenko can't get too down on himself, though, because the Jazz blew several other opportunities at snapping a seven-game home losing streak.
Utah was seemingly in control in the fourth quarter, leading 90-85 with 5:40 left in the game. But on the Jazz's next four possessions, they missed three shots — going one-and-done on three possessions — and turned the ball over.
That stretch was deadly against a team that's as high-powered as Denver. The Nuggets scored nine straight points with Arron Afflalo driving to the basket, Raymond Felton hitting from outside and Nene converting a three-point play.
The Jazz scored six straight points, but couldn't sustain their offense down the stretch. Utah committed turnovers on three straight possessions after going up 96-94, allowowing Denver to take the lead for good. Utah had four turnovers in the game's final four minutes.
Perhaps the Jazz's biggest mistake against Denver was failing to draw fouls and committing too many of them. The Nuggets had a 33-12 advantage in free throws. In the fourth quarter, Denver shot 25 foul shots. The Jazz shot just three of them.
Coach Tyrone Corbin wasn't thrilled with the opportunities missed by the Jazz on Thursday night, but he was pleased with the effort. Eventually, Corbin feels, Utah will get some breaks down the stretch and win again at home.
"Andrei gets a steal there and we didn't make the shot to tie it up to go into overtime, but we never quit on the game," Corbin said. "And as long as we don't do that and we don't quit on each other, we got a chance to work our way out of this thing."
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