Tom Smart, Deseret News
Jerry Sloan wasn't about to stop exhaling.
"You hold your breath," he said, "you could die."
But the Jazz coach did admit to some decidedly anxious moments late in Utah's 104-101 win over San Antonio on Monday night, especially when Tony Parker and Matt Bonner of the Spurs took late-game shots that could have doomed his club.
Both rimmed out, though, and that — combined with Deron Williams' go-ahead jumper, a key rebound and two insurance free throws from Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer's team-high 27 points — allowed the Jazz to beat San Antonio in front of a sparse crowd of 17,565 at EnergySolutions Arena.
"I'm just proud of the fact our guys fought back and really had a nice run there to get a nice lead," said Sloan, whose Jazz went from 15 points down early in the second quarter to as many as 12 up in the final minute of the third quarter.
"I'm really excited for our players," added Sloan, who had all five starters and sub C.J. Miles (10 points) score in double figures.
"I don't get that excited very often. I was excited for them tonight, because I think they needed that to try to move forward with the way we've been trying to play."
The victory was 12-8 Utah's fifth in its last six games and eighth in its last 10.
Moreover, it's the third time in three tries this season that the Jazz have beaten a team that for the longest time was their nemesis — marking the first time since 1997-98 NBA season Utah will take a series from San Antonio.
And this time there's no asterisk, like when the Jazz beat the Spurs last Nov. 19 to break a 20-game regular-season losing streak in San Antonio — but both Parker and Manu Ginobili sat out with injuries.
"Obviously they're a team that's dominated us over the years," Boozer said of the Spurs, who also owned an 18-game win streak over the Jazz in the early to mid 2000s. "But the biggest thing is for us is that we're getting better right now."
The Jazz needed to improve vastly following a first half Monday in which Williams struggled with 1-for-7 shooting from the field and Tim Duncan scored 15 of his 23 points.
They did that in a 37-19 third quarter, and went into the fourth up 86-76.
But San Antonio went back ahead when Bonner hit a 3-pointer that made it 96-94 with just under five minutes remaining, one of four made treys on a night the big redhead aggravated Utah en route to a career-high 28 points off the bench.
"We were kind of focusing too much," Jazz swingman Ronnie Brewer said, "on Tim Duncan and Tony Parker and Richard Jefferson and Ginobili — and we forgot Matt Bonner."
The second of back-to-back lefthanded layups by Boozer put Utah ahead 100-97, but San Antonio retook the lead with a jumper and two free throws from Duncan.
Williams answered with a 16-foot jumper with 22.1 seconds left to make it 102-101 Jazz, giving the Spurs — with two missed Boozer freebies sandwiched between — two last cracks at reclaiming an advantage yet again.
Parker missed the first when his 21-footer from the right side failed to fall with 10.6 seconds left.
The next was designed to go to Duncan, but Bonner wound up with it and he ended up trying — unsuccessfully, but only after a lip-out — to drive on Boozer.
"I'm glad he missed that last one," said Brewer, who also had a double-double with 10 rebounds, "because it really seemed like everything he was doing — shooting 3s, taking it to the basket, hook shots — was going.
"When he shot it I thought it was going in and I was like, 'Man.'"
Okur rebounded Bonner's miss, was fouled and hit the ensuing free throws to start a tough week for the Jazz — games against the Los Angeles Lakes on the road Wednesday, and at home Thursday vs. Orlando and Saturday against the Lakers — on a high note.
"Memo (Okur) came back," Boozer said, "and saved it and knocked down two big ones for us. … Memo saved us, man."
And Sloan lived to talk about it.
NOTES: Small forward Andrei Kirilenkio sat out for a third time in four games (strained lower back). … Both swingman Kyle Korver (arthroscopic knee surgery) and combo guard Ronnie Price (toe/foot) sat out again Monday. … Korver, out all season, still has sharp pain with certain movements. "Until that goes away … I really can't play very well," he said. … Price missed his 13th straight game and remains out indefinitely. … Spurs veteran Michael Finley (sprained ankle) didn't travel and missed his first game this season. … Boozer has scored 20-plus in eight straight games.
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