We had a tough game in Indiana and we had a tough game in Miami, but tonight we just said, 'We ain't losing. —Jazz guard Randy Foye
ORLANDO — Maybe the snow machine that was blowing fake flakes outside Amway Center before Sunday's game made them feel a little more at home than they've been in a while.
Maybe they decided to give frazzled fans an early Christmas present after putting them through back-to-back blowouts.
Reasons why it happened varied, but there were no maybes about one thing.
The Utah Jazz desperately needed a result like their 97-93 gut-check victory over the Orlando Magic.
"We didn't want to lose," Jazz guard Randy Foye said. "We had a tough game in Indiana and we had a tough game in Miami, but tonight we just said, 'We ain't losing.'"
As a result of following through on that commitment, the Jazz salvaged their road trip by bookending back-to-back blowouts with comeback victories over Brooklyn and Orlando to go a great-for-them 2-2.
"It's definitely going to make this four- or five-hour plane trip a lot better that we won," Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward said, smiling before flying back home after the weeklong pre-Christmas excursion.
The Jazz didn't have Mo Williams, who missed the first of who knows how many games with a right thumb injury. And they came out playing like they were missing their captain and starting point guard, falling behind by 16 points in the second quarter after only scoring 18 in the first 12 minutes.
"They were making some tough shots in the first half," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "We thought we were playing pretty good defense and knew if we kept playing our defense those shots wouldn't continue to go in."
It helped Utah's cause that the visitors got a wide range of contributions from the players available to play — from Paul Millsap's team-high 18 points, a strong all-around showing by Hayward (17 points), Derrick Favors (12 points) and their bench buddies, a feisty defensive effort in crunch time, and clutch free throws by fill-in starting point guard Jamaal Tinsley.
And, get this, the Jazz even got an energetic spark-plug effort from sporadically used reserve Alec Burks, who totaled eight points and three assists to go with hustling defense on Magic sharpshooter J.J. Redick.
"That second group did a good job for us. They're the ones who started our run and the other guys came in and finished it off for us," Corbin said. "Our young guys did a tremendous job for us, keeping us in there and getting us back in the ballgame to help us have a chance to win."
"That's our job," Hayward said. "Go in there and compete and play hard and bring energy."
That's precisely what the Jazz subs did, erasing most of a 16-point deficit before going into halftime down by just one at 47-46.
Orlando, which had won four of five coming into this matchup, looked like it had fended off Utah's rally attempt in the second half. After the Jazz took their first lead of the game at 50-49 on an Al Jefferson bucket, the Magic used a 12-2 burst to re-establish a nine-point lead midway through the third quarter.
But Utah continued to chip away, pulling within two by the end of the third and then using a 7-0 run to open the fourth quarter to take its biggest lead at 78-73.
The two teams went back and forth until Tinsley hit the third of his three 3-pointers to put the Jazz up 88-87 with 2:44 remaining. Foye followed that with a trey of his own after some terrific transition passing from Tinsley and Hayward, and the Jazz iced the game by going 6-for-8 at the free-throw line in the final two minutes.
"You've got to figure how to push yourself and try to get a victory," Tinsley said. "And tonight, we did that."
That was possible in large part because of some big defensive plays in the final minute and a half.
For one, Hawyard got his fingers on Arron Afflalo's game-tying attempt with 22.9 to go. Foye also had three key moments, swatting Gustavo Ayon's shot (Millsap got credit), forcing Redick into a turnover, and then hurrying to make Ayon shoot free throws instead of having an easy bucket with 2.4 seconds left. The Magic center missed both attempts — the second on purpose — and Tinsley closed out the win with his clutch makes with 1.5 remaining.
"This group of guys never ceases to amaze (with) the fight they have and the sense of wanting to do the right things," Corbin said. "We may make mistakes, but the guys just fight their way through it."
The win wasn't just important because it pushed the Jazz back above .500 at 15-14 and improved their road record to 6-12. It was also nice for them to have a positive result when Williams was on the bench in dress clothes instead of on the floor playing.
Tinsley finished with 11 points and four assists, and Watson distributed eight assists in his reserve role.
"Jamaal and Earl came in and did a tremendous job for us. They pushed the pace," Corbin said. "They were getting the ball, advancing it up to the wing guys. The guys did a good job attacking the basket. They're true professionals, man. These guys do everything than can to help us win and it was an indication tonight."
Orlando, coached by former Jazz point guard Jacque Vaughn, fell to 12-15. Afflalo topped the Magic with 20 points.4 comments on this story
NOTES: The Jazz have two days off for a mini-Christmas break before reconvening for shootaround Wednesday morning before their home game against a much-improved Golden State squad. Corbin said he played Burks a season-high 20 minutes, mostly taking away from DeMarre Carroll's wing time (five minutes), because the Jazz needed his offensive spark. ... Magic center Nikola Vucevic made life tough on Al Jefferson and finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds. Big Al had 12 points and nine boards. Big Baby Glen Davis (sprained left shoulder) did not play for Orlando.