"The most discouraging thing to this point," Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan said before Sunday's game, "is that we've had our chances to win and didn't take advantage of them."
Enough said. Guard Jeff Malone nailed a 17-foot jumper with two seconds remaining at the Sky Dome to earn the Jazz a 103-101 exhibition win over the defending world champion Detroit Pistons.The win was a long time coming. Utah ground through the preseason without a single win to show through its first six games. The team that led the league in field goal shooting last year was lumbering along at 43 percent shooting in the preseason.
But for the first time this year, the Jazz looked like contenders on Sunday.
Utah came from a 14-point deficit in the early third quarter to tie the score. The teams then went neck-and-neck through the final period, neither getting up by more than four points.
The finish had everything the Jazz have been lacking. They got their first lead near the end of the third quarter on Mark Eaton's jump shot for a 73-72 lead.
A fourth-quarter flurry by guard John Stockton, in which he scored seven straight points, kept Detroit at bay until the Pistons tied the score at 97-97 with three minutes left. Stockton then took charge, making two free throws and a driving shot to move the Jazz ahead by four.
The Pistons stayed close, though, with Isiah Thomas netting two free throws and field goal, the latter tying the score with 20 seconds remaining.
Stockton drove inside, drawing the Piston defense in, then shot a pass out to Malone, who buried the winning shot.
Thomas' 40-foot desperation try at the buzzer was off.
Stockton ended the game with a team-high 24 points, followed by Malone and Thurl Bailey with 17 apiece. Thomas scored 32 and guard-mate Joe Dumars 17 for the Pistons, while John Salley and Mark Aguirre contributed 13 apiece.
The Pistons played without starting center Bill Laimbeer, who has been out with a fractured cheek. But Thomas, and NBA Defensive Player of the Year Dennis Rodman were back from injuries.
After shooting 43 percent for the preseason, the Jazz improved against the Pistons, making 46 percent of their shots. Detroit made almost 47 percent of its shots, but fell off wildly at the free throw line, making just 66 percent, or 27 of 41 attempts.
Utah, 1-6, moves on to meet Boston in Providence, R.I., Monday at 5:30 p.m. (MST). Detroit, 3-5, has completed its exhibition schedule.
Following the Boston game, the Jazz will fly to Tokyo for the Friday regular-season opener against Phoenix.
In other NBA preseason action, Cliff Robinson scored 19 points and Jerome Kersey added 17 as the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Charlotte Hornets 133-119 in the final exhibtion game for the two NBA teams.
It was a homecoming for the Blazers' Danny Ainge who attended North Eugene High School. The former BYU star scored 13 points and had five assists.
Portland finished the preseason at 6-2 and will open the regular season at home againsy Houston on Friday. Charlotte finished at 5-3 and will open at home against New York on Friday.
In Fort Worth, Texas, Walter Davis' jumper with a minute left gave Denver a three-point lead, and the Nuggets held on to beat the Dallas Mavericks 138-137 in the preseason finale for both teams.
The game produced the most points Dallas has ever scored and the most it has allowed in a preseason game. Yet the 137 points allowed was Denver's best defensive game of the preseason.
Both teams ended the exhibition schedule with 2-6 records. It was the most preseason losses in Mavericks history.
Jazz notes: Karl Malone, plagued by foul trouble all afternoon, finished with 13 points . . . Guard Delaney Rudd attended the game but did not play, due to a sprained shoulder.