Bill Kostroun, Associated Press
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Power forward Paul Millsap called it "sluggish." Sixth man (at least for now) Andrei Kirilenko deemed it "kind of slumpy." Coach Jerry Sloan declared it "a mess."
Whatever the Jazz's start in their 103-92 victory Wednesday at New Jersey is to be tagged, it's the rest that will remembered.
Because while not the mother of all comebacks that would be their down-by-34-in-the-second-half 1996 rally against Denver, which still stands as an NBA record this one was a true beaut for the Jazz.
Down by as many as 22 points late in the opening quarter, Utah rallied to snap a two-game losing streak with three starters watching from the bench throughout the second quarter, two of the aforementioned sitting the entire second half as well, and its coach in the locker room.
The Jazz did it behind a 40-23 fourth quarter, a game-high 23 points from center Mehmet Okur that included 10-of-10 shooting from the free-throw line; a 13th straight double-double (18 points, 12 rebounds) from Millsap, who was making his 14th straight start in place of injured All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer; 18 points from backup shooting guard Kyle Korver, including two dagger jumpers late in the fourth; and a double-double from point guard Deron Williams.
"That's a great confidence-builder for us, for how poorly we played," said Williams, who was on the bench for all of the second quarter but returned after the break to score 16 of his 17 points and dish each of 11 assists. "To shoot 16 percent in the quarter and be 20 points down at the end of the quarter, and to come back and win we'll definitely take that."
The Jazz hit just 3-of-19 from the field in the disastrous 27-7 first quarter the lowest-scoring opening 12 minutes in franchise history, one point worse than the previous total of eight.
Only a late jumper from sporadically-used shooting guard Morris Almond, in fact, kept it from tying as the lowest-scoring Jazz quarter any quarter ever.
None of Utah's starters played in the period's final two minutes, and the trio of Williams, shooting guard Ronnie Brewer and small forward C.J. Miles sat for all of the ensuing quarter.
And none of the Jazz's first five even made a jumper in the first, with a Brewer fastbreak dunk joining a layup from reserve center Kosta Koufos as their only other two buckets from the floor.
"That mess we put out there to start with? You know, it's frustrating to see us come out and not play our butts off, knowing we're on the road for five games," said Sloan, whose 16-11 club continues its annual pre-Christmas trip Friday at Detroit. "It didn't look like there was any concern whether we won or not. Just try to get jumpers, and go home."
But when Utah came back from halftime down just 39-31 behind a 24-12 second quarter, the tide already was well on its way to turning.
"Definitely a different ballgame when you have not 20 but eight (as a deficit)," Kirilenko said. "You feel way, way more comfortable."
Kirilenko opened the second half in place of Miles and Korver started it in place of Brewer.
"Well," Sloan, who was ejected after picking up his second of two fourth-quarter technicals, said in explaining the switches, "we had to get somebody out there that wanted to compete."
So be it, suggested one of the two banished to the benched.
"I'm happy we won the game," Brewer said. "That's what it's all it's about."
The Jazz took their first lead of the game when reserve guard Ronnie Price hit a baseline jumper to make it 77-76 with just more than seven minutes remaining.
They went ahead for good when Korver knocked down a 19-footer, which he followed with a 3-pointer to put Utah up 84-80 with 4:40 to go.
Okur scored 12 of Utah's 19 points from there forward, including all 10 of his freebies.
"We just did a better job," Williams said, "of executing, a better job of defending, in the second quarter, which led to the second half."
And that led to the changes, which may or not be in place when the Jazz visit the Pistons.
"I don't know," Sloan said when asked if the moves of Miles and Brewer to the bench were permanent. "This game just got over.I've got enough headaches right now, so we'll talk about that and probably look at it (today)."
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