PHOENIX — When it comes to comebacks from double-digit deficits this season, no one in the NBA is doing it better than the Utah Jazz. They did it again Friday night at U.S. Airways Center — extending their league lead in the category to nine with an 87-80 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
“I didn’t even know that, but it’s the NBA. It’s a long 48-minute game and teams can get up,” said Utah center Al Jefferson. “We’ve been up and lost the lead but you’ve just got to always keep on playing.”
It’s never over, he added, until the proverbial fat lady sings.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin credited his team for having character.
“It was the guys. These guys have a lot of pride and they’re not going to quit. They’re going to stay together. They’re going to continue to fight,” he said. “Even when we’re not playing our best basketball we need to give effort and they understand that.”
It’s not always about that moment, Corbin explained, it’s about creating an identity.
“I’m not proud to get down,” he said. “But I’m proud of the fact we can fight back from being down to win games.”
Trailing 36-25 after a jumper by Phoenix forward Markieff Morris with 9:59 remaining in the second quarter, the Jazz climbed back into contention and took the lead with a 13-0 run. Gordon Hayward led the balanced outburst with four points. Paul Millsap added three, while Alec Burks, DeMarre Carroll and Derrick Favors each had two.
The Suns, meanwhile, were held scoreless for nearly 8 1/2 minutes. They were whistled for four fouls (two offensive) and turned the ball over three times during the stretch.
Although two ties and a lead exchange followed, Utah led 42-40 at halftime. Phoenix shot 21.1 percent (4 of 19) in the second quarter after making 14 of 18 (77.8 percent) in the opening period.
The Suns managed to regain the lead early in the third quarter — at 44-42 — before the Jazz seized control for good by reeling off eight straight points. Randy Foye led the way with five points in the decisive span.
Utah eventually extended its lead to 87-70 late in the fourth quarter en route to capping another comeback.
“It’s good but we don’t want to make that a habit,” said Favors. “We want to be able to win games without coming back.”
Contributions were plentiful with nine Jazzmen grabbing rebounds by game’s end. Eight had assists and/or points, six recorded steals and three were credited with blocked shots.
“I think we’re a team that’s never going to give up,” said Hayward. “We are going to preserve. It’s just not our DNA to lay down and quit.”