SALT LAKE CITY — Fourteen different times in this weird year the Utah Jazz have rallied to win games after trailing by double digits.
With a victory badly needed — for both morale and playoff hopes — the Comeback Crew put a twist on that thrilling method of winning Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena in their 112-107 overtime victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
This time, the Jazz stormed to a 21-point lead before watching their opponent storm back and go ahead by three late in the game. Showing signs of their previous resiliency — and defying their oft-putrid play of late — the Jazz gutted out a small comeback in the final 15 seconds of regulation and then clinched the win in an Andrei Kirilenko clinic, otherwise known as OT.
"I guess we don't want an easy game," Jazz center Al Jefferson said after his latest strong performance — a 30-point, 17-rebound showing. "We try to make it hard on ourselves to win. But we'll take it any way we can get it."
The Jazz have had more personnel moves and roster changes — not to mention injuries — in recent weeks than they have wins.
Utah's victory was just the fourth in the 14-game tenure of new head coach Tyrone Corbin, and it came after a dismal 1-3 road trip in which the Jazz trailed in three different games by at least 30 points and lost by an average of 20.
So, after C.J. Miles saved the team's bacon with an overtime-forcing strong drive with 9.1 seconds remaining and Kirilenko followed with a seven-point overtime session, it was no surprise that a sense of relief was as prevalent as celebration after this wild one.
"The great thing about (the game)," Corbin said, "is that we hung in there and continued to fight. (The Sixers) made some big shots on us, but we came back in overtime and were able to get some great stops."
Though Philadelphia scored 107 points, defense was the key to this victory for the Jazz.
Injuries led to C.J. Miles (in for Raja Bell, toe) and rookie Derrick Favors (subbing for Paul Millsap, knee) being inserted into the starting lineup, and Utah responded to the improved-effort challenge Corbin has been putting out right from the jump.
The Jazz, who were blown out early in consecutive losses at Minnesota and Chicago, held the Sixers to just 42 points on 36.4 percent shooting in the first half.
Utah shooters, meanwhile, found their strokes while putting up 60 points to take a rare double-digit lead (18 points) going into the locker room.
It was like a new team compared to the one that struggled so mightily on the road last week or even in the past couple of months while going through a dreadful 7-20 stretch.
After the Sixers made a furious fourth-quarter comeback — outscoring Utah by 13 in the final 12 minutes of regulation — the Jazz refocused and played a much more determined and energetic defense in overtime.
The Sixers were forced into missing 7 of 9 shots in OT and only scored four points. Meanwhile, Utah took the lead early on a Kirilenko 3-pointer and never gave it up in the extra session.
"Defensively, we were tremendous tonight," Corbin said. "I just can't give them enough credit for the effort they came back with tonight."
Offensively, the Jazz were pretty darn good while improving to 35-33 and staying within two games of Memphis in the race for the last playoff spot.
All five starters scored in double figures, led by Big Al's latest big night, 19-point outings by Miles and Devin Harris, 16 points from Kirilenko and an important 11-point effort from Favors in his first start with the Jazz.
That helped Utah overcome 23 points from Philly's Andre Iguodala and 22 by reserve Lou Williams.
"We wanted to come out tonight and just show energy on our home floor," Miles said. "Knowing that it was going to be a big thing that was gonna help us a lot, that was gonna help us get out of transition and use our strength that we have on the floor."
The win came with five guys unable to play.
Millsap sat out again due to his left patellar tendinitis, and rookie Gordon Hayward was a scratch because of a sprained left forefoot. And the Jazz were also without Francisco Elson (knee/ankle), Ronnie Price (toe) and Mehmet Okur (back).
On top of that, the Jazz played the end of regulation and all of overtime without their starting point guard. Harris strained his right hamstring and was unable to finish this one out.41 comments on this story
"It's not too bad, not as bad as I thought," Harris said. "It's a little sore right now. We'll ice it down and see how it feels (today)."
Kirilenko hustled out of the arena before reporters could talk to him about his strong performance, but Corbin considered his play critical to the win — especially in overtime.
"It was just tremendous to see him with his effort," Corbin said of Kirilenko, who also had six assists, three rebounds and a block. "When he's as active as he was tonight, we're a pretty good ballclub."
A winning one for a pleasant change, too.