Utah Jazz found pulse too late, surge fell short

Published: Tuesday, April 28 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

LOS ANGELES — It was almost the comeback for the ages.

Had it started about two minutes earlier — or if the Jazz could've just done a few more layup drills — Utah just might have pulled off a stunner at Staples Center.

Their gutsy rally with a hodge-podge lineup didn't last.

But Jazz fans and players looking for something positive to hold onto from this 4-1 series defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers found it in the fourth quarter of the Game 5 107-96 loss.

Interestingly, the Jazz pulled out a stethoscope and discovered their pulse with some of their stars on the bench.

In a last-quarter showing that could boost his offseason value, Paul Millsap had 14 points and five rebounds in the fourth quarter. Kyle Korver added 11 points with three 3-pointers in the final flurry.

While those two have had their moments this season, it was seldom-used-turned-sparkplug Ronnie Price who was the talk of the locker room for his part in helping a one-time 22-point Laker lead dwindle down to six late in the game.

"I want to congratulate Ronnie Price," Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko said of the Utah Valley star, who had four points and five assists and expended about 5,000 calories in that final 12-minute spurt.

"I think he was the spark," Kirilenko added. "He gave us the spark, running our offense, jumping for every loose ball. That's how we're supposed to play."

Carlos Boozer believes the Jazz season might not be over had the rest of the team played like Price.

"He came out there like he was shot (like) a bullet out of a gun," Boozer said. "He just came out played hard, played aggressive, got a lot of offensive rebounds, pushed the ball offensively played great defense, didn't back down from anybody.

"I'm very proud of him," Boozer added. "He's probably one of the guys who should have been in the series a little bit. If we had guys playing like him we would have a better chance to win this series."

Price's layup with 9:20 remaining jumpstarted the ferocious rally.

Millsap later scored 11 consecutive points, and the Jazz went on a 16-2 run to make it a six-point game with 3:43 remaining.

A whole lot of scrapping, scraping and clawing went on during that span.

In other words, the Jazz finally showed the heart and hustle they'd talked about before the game.

"It was a little bit too late because they had a 20-point lead," Mehmet Okur said. "And we just wanted to come out there in the fourth and just bring our A-game.

"We should've started the game like that," he added. "It was a must win game for us and for some reason we just couldn't start like that."

It will have to be considered a consolation prize for the Jazz, though.

"I mean we still lost," Okur added. "We fought back and the game was right there for us, we just couldn't get it."

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