Steve Yeater, AP
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Talk about being at the right place at the right time.
Fortunately for the Utah Jazz, Al Jefferson was in that spot Thursday night at Power Balance Pavilion when he hit a game-winning shot in the final second of a nailbiting 103-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
"It was just great to get the win, man. We'll get it any way we have to," said Jefferson moments after his game-saving lay-in with 0.9 seconds remaining helped the Jazz win after seeing the Kings rally from down 10 to begin the period.
"Once again, we blew a big lead in the fourth," he added. "But normally we would've put our head down and gave up, but we didn't. We kept fighting, and the basketball gods were on our side tonight."
Were they ever.
With less than a second remaining, Big Al leaped to the Jazz's rescue when Devin Harris lofted the basketball toward the rim.
Harris might go to his grave claiming it was a pass.
Everybody else in the building thought it was a short shot.
In the end, it doesn't really matter what Harris' intentions were. The play worked.
Jefferson caught the floater mid-air and softly dropped it into the rim.
Sacramento had one last shot, but Marcus Thornton's 3-point heave fell into Alec Burks' hands a few feet short of the hoop. Thornton had just put the Kings up by one with a terrific drive for a layup with 4.1 seconds remaining.
"I honestly thought it was a shot, a short shot," Jefferson said.
Harris, however, convinced him otherwise.
The point guard got the ball, burst toward the basket and claimed he lofted an alley-oop-like pass to the Jazz's 6-foot-10 center.
Big Al then set chuckling reporters straight after it wasn't clear whether he was playing or if he'd been convinced by Harris.
"No, seriously," Jefferson said. "(Harris) seen my man go to him and I was under the basket by myself and that was the only way he could get it to me, and it was a perfect pass ... and I finished it."
The most important thing for the Jazz (25-22) was that the Kings' ensuing attempt fell much shorter than Harris' throw, extending Utah's winning streak to five straight games overall and two in a row on the road.
"The greatest thing about it is that we hung in there. We didn't hang our heads. We continued to fight," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "What a big finish. We made big shots. They made some big drives. We had some guys step up, especially Alec Burks. I thought he did a great job coming in a tough situation, went to the basket. He made the shot. He just kept competing."
Burks, playing at the end of the game yet again, gave the Jazz a short-lived lead with an aggressive drive with 12.3 seconds left.
Burks' basket came between a pair of clutch Thornton shots. The first was a 3-pointer that temporarily gave the Kings a 100-99 advantage with 27.3 seconds remaining. The second was a tough drive by the Sacramento guard with 4.1 seconds to go, which sent most of the 11,646 fans to their feet.
That, it turned out, only set up the most clutch play for a team that has recently won two overtime contests and held on for dear life in Los Angeles for a tight win over the Lakers.
"My stomach came back up," Corbin said, laughing. "It's been down for awhile."
Jefferson led the Jazz with 26 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.
But Utah had a wide variety of key performers again as it continues to push toward the playoffs.
Gordon Hayward scored 18 points with seven rebounds and five assists and big-time defense; Derrick Favors made a huge impact on both ends with 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
And Harris chipped in with 14 points and six assists, including the biggest one in the final second.
Harris also mixed it up with Sacramento's loose cannon, DeMarcus Cousins, giving the Kings' big man a stare down after he bumped into him in the second quarter. Those two also had some tense moments in the last game in Sacramento, a Kings win, when Cousins bumped Harris twice.
"I don't know what his issue is," Cousins said. "But I can definitely solve it."
Unfortunately for Cousins, he had an issue with solving how to make a basket on this night. Cousins shot 9-for-28, finishing with 22 points.
Tyreke Evans led Sacramento in its comeback — the Kings trailed by 10 after three quarters — by scoring 25 points.
The Jazz don't have much time to celebrate or recover from this one. They return home for an 8:30 p.m. ESPN showdown with Northwest Division rival Denver tonight at EnergySolutions Arena.
So, Harris ... fortuitous shot or fast-thinking pass?
"Pass, of course," Harris said. "Once I saw Cousins step up, I just tried to get it to Al any kind of way I could. He made a great play and put it in."
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