Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — OK, go ahead and call San Antonio's no-name Monday night lineup whatever you want: The Spurs' junior varsity, or their second-stringers perhaps, or maybe the Not-Quite-Ready-for-Prime-Time-in-Texas players.
But when you've lost to a team six straight times the way Utah had against San Antonio, a franchise which has historically given the Jazz fits and came to town riding high on an 11-game winning streak, you're definitely not going to apologize for anything — especially when your postseason hopes are barely breathing on life-support.
So when the Jazz rallied down the stretch to slip past the Spurs — who were without their "Big Three" of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — for a 91-84 victory at EnergySolutions Arena, nobody from Utah was offering to give it back.
"It (threw) us off a little bit because guys tend to relax, thinking their 'Big Three' are out," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "They have a system where they plug guys in and they are going to play hard.
"It took us a while to get going, but in the fourth quarter we did what we had to do to win the ballgame. We picked our defense up and, thank goodness, Devin (Harris) was making some shots down the stretch for us. The guys just toughed it out; everybody's a little beat up, but it's a great win for us.
"He had the ball in his hands and was making plays for us," Corbin said of Harris. "He was the one guy for us who acted like he had a little bit more in the tank, and so it was great to see him come out and be aggressive on the offensive end."
Indeed, one night after losing to the Spurs by 10 points in San Antonio — where Parker and Ginobili combined for 51 points and Duncan had 13 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots — Harris fueled a furious Jazz rally over the final eight-plus minutes of the fourth period.
Things started looked pretty bleak for Utah (30-28) when the Spurs opened up an eight-point spread, 75-67, with 8:49 remaining. But right when the Jazz appeared on the brink of defeat, Jamaal Tinsley, Paul Millsap, Gordon Hayward and Harris each scored two points in an 8-0 run that tied it at 75 with 4:52 to go.
Then Harris took over the game. During the ensuing 21/2 minutes, he hit a pair of 3-pointers from the same top-of-the-key, left-angle spot which, along with 3-of-4 free throws, lifted the Jazz into an 84-80 lead with 2:23 to go. In all, he scored 11 consecutive Utah points.
"I was just trying to step up and make shots," Harris said. "It was kind of a sluggish game for the first three quarters, but we got some stops that allowed us to get into transition and get some good shots, and we were able to knock them down."
Then, with the Jazz leading 84-80, Millsap hit a jumper and then a monstrous followup dunk on a miss by Al Jefferson to make it 88-82. Millsap soon added two free throws and Harris hit another one from the line to cap Utah's decisive 24-9 run to finish the game.
"I got higher than what I expected," Millsap said of his highlight-reel dunk that brought the ESA crowd to its feet. "I just went and jumped and felt like I wasn't going to get there at first ... it just went in."
Harris finished with a game-high 25 points — 12 coming in the fourth quarter — along with six assists and six rebounds. Millsap had nine of his 18 points in the final period, and he also grabbed 10 rebounds to share game-high honors with Jefferson, who contributed 12 points and four blocked shots to Utah's team total of 13 blocks.
Gordon Hayward added 16 points and six boards for the Jazz, who remained 10th in the tight Western Conference playoff chase, a half-game behind ninth-place Phoenix (30-27) and 11/2 games behind both Dallas and Denver, which are tied for the seventh spot at 31-26. Utah has just eight regular-season games remaining.
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