TORONTO — The struggling Utah Jazz needed someone to come through in the clutch.
Al Jefferson fit the role perfectly.
Big Al scored 34 points, including a game-winning basket at the buzzer, and the Jazz rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat Toronto 96-94 on Wednesday, extending their winning streak over the Raptors to 12 games.
"It's a perfect example there that you're never out of the game, no matter how many points you get down," Jefferson said. "You've just got to keep playing, give it all you got and you never know how things will turn around for you."
C.J. Miles and Devin Harris each scored 23 points for Utah, which has not lost to the Raptors since a 98-86 defeat in Toronto on Dec. 22, 2004.
This win at Air Canada Centre ranks at the top in level of importance, considering Utah's injury situation and recent struggles. Utah (34-31) had lost nine of 11 games coming in, including an admittedly embarrassing 22-point clunker in New York on Monday that put the Jazz 2.5 games out of playoff positioning.
"Tonight was a big win for us," Utah's Raja Bell said. "That was huge having been down (14) in the fourth quarter and finding a way to gut that out. That was big for a team like us that really needed a win."
Starting forwards Paul Millsap (left knee) and Andrei Kirilenko (back), who both left Monday's loss at New York, did not play for Utah. Rookie Jeremy Evans, only four days removed from his D-League assignment with the Utah Flash, made his first career start in place of Millsap, with Miles taking Kirilenko's spot.
The injury-ravaged Jazz were also without Francisco Elson (left knee), Mehmet Okur (back) and Ronnie Price (right foot).
Kyrylo Fesenko (sore back) returned to Utah's lineup after sitting out Monday's game. D-League call-up Marcus Cousin of the Austin Toros also made a brief appearance after signing a 10-day contract earlier in the day.
Even against a 17-win team, the Jazz needed all the help they could get.
Tied 94-all with 17 seconds to play, after staging a big rally, the Jazz held the ball until Harris drove for a layup.
The new Jazz point guard, who struggled mightily Monday, missed his game-winning attempt.
But Jefferson didn't.
His tip dropped in the net as the horn sounded.
"I had a good look," Harris said. "But Big Al came out of nowhere like Superman."
Jefferson saw it as something else.
"I just got my hand on the ball and I tipped it up," he said. "The basketball god was on our side tonight, that's all I've got to say."
Some Jazz faithful might say it's about time something went Utah's way after a tumultuous stretch in the last couple of months.
The Jazz started walking off the floor in celebration before the referees called them back to review the play. The basket was ruled good and the game was over.
DeMar DeRozan scored 17 points and Sonny Weems had 16 as Toronto lost for the fifth time in six games.
The Jazz trailed 86-72 with 8:21 to play before turning it around behind 10 fourth quarter points from Miles, including back-to-back 3-pointers.
After a basket from Leandro Barbosa, consecutive 3-pointers from Earl Watson and Harris trimmed it to 88-82 with 5:00 remaining.
Weems made a pair of free throws but Miles hit 3s on back-to-back trips, cutting it to 90-88 with 3:25 to play.
DeRozan made one of two from the line but a driving layup from Harris and a rebound and layup by Jefferson gave Utah a 92-91 lead. After Calderon missed a 3-pointer, Jefferson hit a turnaround jumper, putting the Jazz up 94-91 with a minute to play.
Barbosa's 3 tied it with 43 seconds left, but Jefferson's efforts gave Utah an important win as they chase the West's final playoff spot.
It also gave the Jazz their 14th comeback win after trailing by double digits.54 comments on this story
Toronto was without leading scorer Andrea Bargnani (flu-like symptoms), although Reggie Evans, who had 11 rebounds, returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a broken bone in his right foot in a Nov. 26 loss at Boston.
The Jazz missed 10 of 11 shots over the final five minutes of the third period, with Toronto using a 14-2 run over that span to take a 78-70 lead into the fourth quarter.
GAME NOTES: The 6-foot-11 Cousin made his Jazz debut but didn't even have a name stitched on the back of his jersey. He wore No. 0 for the night. ... The Raptors, in their 16th season, had never faced a Jazz team coached by anyone other than Jerry Sloan.
Contributing: Jody Genessy