Jazz make magic again, rally to down Orlando
Orlando, Fla. • It was the hard burn in Deron Williams' eyes. The sight of a Jazz bench jumping skyward with raised fists, bared teeth and smiling faces. And the image of a cast of reserves racing out along the hardwood to bump chests and slap hands, congratulating their teammates as Utah accomplished the improbable once again.
All captured the spirit of a team that is quickly becoming defined by its collective heart and strong will. And they represented the fierce fight of a Jazz team that rallied from an 18-point late-third quarter deficit to defeat the Orlando Magic 104-94 on Wednesday night at Amway Center.
"We're just not going to lay down," said Williams, who finished with a game-high 30 points and 14 assists. "We kept fighting. Kept chipping away. You look up, you're down six [points], and your confidence grows."
Paul Millsap added 23 points for Utah (5-3), who shot 50 percent (37 of 74) from the field after hitting only 38.2 percent of its attempts during the first half.
Vince Carter's 20 points topped the Magic (5-2), who committed 21 turnovers that were traded for 25 Jazz points and shot just 56 percent (14 of 25) from the foul line.
"Obviously, it was a very tough loss," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "A disturbing loss."
Where Paul Millsap carried Utah on Tuesday during a memorable overtime win at Miami, Williams lifted up and inspired the Jazz versus the Magic.
The guard who hates to lose scored 17 points during the fourth quarter, nailing 4 of his 6 field goal attempts, both of his 3-point tries and seven of eight free throws. Toss in five assists and three rebounds in 12 no-quit minutes, and the Jazz had done it again.
"He's always been a competitive player. Wants to win. And that's what's made him a great player for his whole life. I think he's proven that," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "The teams he gets on and has been on, they win. That's not by accident."
Utah's self belief is blooming. The Jazz have now knocked off the Heat and Magic two of the premier contenders in a top-heavy Eastern Conference during back-to-back nights on the road, delivering each team its first home defeat. Factor in a double overtime victory over the Los Angeles Clippers last Friday featuring an 18-point rally and a last-second game winner by Williams and a Utah team that just a week ago was searching for its early-season identity has suddenly begun to find one.
"Everybody know who been covering this league that every Jerry Sloan team is going to come out playing with heart. There's just no doubt about it," said Al Jefferson, who bounced back from an off night against Miami to pour in 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting, collect five rebounds, and outplay Magic All-NBA center Dwight Howard.
"That's something that he always has proved since he been coaching," Jefferson said. "Everybody should know we shouldn't give up. Don't put your head down. Just keep playing. You never know what can happen."
The Jazz again had every chance to drop their crown, trailing 45-35 at halftime and scoring less than 40 points through two quarters for the fourth consecutive game. Orlando's lead swelled to 18 with 1:36 left in the third period.
Then magic happened.
Spurred by 13 third-quarter points from Millsap, Utah claimed a 78-76 lead after Andrei Kirilenko banked a 3 from the left wing with 7:43 to go.
A 3 by Vince Carter swung the game back in Orlando's favor, 85-82. But the Jazz reignited, closing out the game on a 22-9 run to steal their second consecutive contest. In the process, Utah has knocked off deep, talented teams that many thought would blow Utah out of Florida.
With the Jazz's second straight come-from-behind win iced, Ronnie Price looked to the scorer's table, raised his hands in a childlike I-can't-explain-it manner, and glowed.
Soon, Price was bumping chests with Williams. The Jazz were victorious. And moving on - as a team.
"When you're on the road, and you've got nobody else to rely on but your teammates - and then we've had adversity like we've had the last two nights - you kind of really close ranks and start to rely on each other," Raja Bell said.
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P Jazz at Hawks,5 p.m. Friday
IN SHORT • The Jazz move to 2-0 on a tough four-game road trip, rallying from 18 down to beat Orlando 104-94.
KEY STAT • The Jazz shoot 50 percent (37 of 74) from the field and 89.3 percent (25 of 28) from the free throw line.
KEY MOMENT • Utah guard Deron Williams scored 17 of his game-high 30 points during the fourth quarter.