Fesenko provides punch as Jazz rally to beat Kings 107-104
Sacramento, Calif. • Kyrylo Fesenko initially downplayed his work.
The third-string Jazz center had just unleashed one of the best outings of his four-year career, dropping in a season-high 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting while grabbing seven rebounds five offensive and collecting a steal.
He had played a crucial role in Utah's 107-104 come-from-behind victory against the Sacramento Kings on Monday night at Arco Arena.
And with second-string center Francisco Elson stuck on the bench with a swollen knee, Fesenko had teamed with starter Al Jefferson to provide the grit, muscle and punch that the Jazz (31-22) required to rally from eight points down with 9 minutes, 55 seconds to go and close out a tough road victory against an improved but still bottom-of-the-heap Kings (12-36) team.
So, finally, Fesenko acknowledged what he had accomplished. Yes, his night was not perfect. Yes, he could have played better at times. But Fes was sometimes as big as Big Al. He drew praise from hard-to-please coach Jerry Sloan and All-Star point guard Deron Williams. And he soon smiled wide while recounting his breakout outing.
"I really felt pretty good about this game, honestly. I'm not going to lie," Fesenko said. "We needed it we needed a big win. Just as I used to say before: You never know when you might need to step up."
He was not the only Jazz player who shined as Utah outscored the Kings 27-17 during the fourth quarter and used a zone defense to hold Sacramento to 38.1 percent shooting in the period.
Everyone from Raja Bell and Earl Watson to Andrei Kirilenko helped carry Utah home. Even as the Jazz watched a 105-101 lead dwindle to a one-point margin after Kings rookie center DeMarcus Cousins (game-high 25 points and 14 rebounds) converted a three-point play with 1:04 left on the clock.
It only got tighter for Utah. The Kings kicked away multiple opportunities, but Sacramento still had a chance to send the game into overtime. A 26-foot 3-point attempt by Omri Casspi fell short with 3.9 seconds left, though, and the Jazz moved forward instead of continuing a troubling trend that had seen Utah fall to some of the worst teams in the NBA during the past three weeks.
Sloan said that road contests during the second half of the season against young, talented but record-challenged teams are never easy. And with the Jazz stuck in second place in the Northwest Division, 3 Â½ games behind Oklahoma City, and sitting in seventh in the Western Conference, it was a game that Utah could not afford to let slip away.
"People don't realize they mark it down as a victory. And then if you don't win, they say you're a bunch of bums," Sloan said. "But these are hard games to play. They always have been. Even going back to when I played."
All five of the Jazz's starters scored at least 10 points, led by 23 from Jefferson, who scored 12 during the first quarter on 6-of-8 shooting.
Sloan said Utah went to Jefferson early simply because he was scoring. And while Cousins technically won the statistical battle, Jefferson helped capture the game. Cousins fouled out with 22.2 seconds go, while Jefferson teamed with Kirilenko to lead an inside-out Jazz attack that outscored the Kings 54-50 in the paint.
"It was real important just to get a win, period," Jefferson said. "We've got some tough games coming up before the All-Star break, and we're just trying to finish on a nice little run here starting [with this win]."
R in short • The Jazz edge the Sacramento Kings 107-104 Monday on the road.
Key stat • Utah hit 48.9 percent (43 of 88) of its field goal attempts and outscored the Kings 54-50 in the paint.
Key moment • The Jazz survived after a desperation 3-pointer by Sacramento's Omri Casspi with 3.9 seconds to go fell short.
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V Less than two days after going into detail while bemoaning the Jazz's woeful pick-and-roll defense, guard Deron Williams did not initially comment Monday when asked whether the team discussed the issue during a shootaround at Arco Arena.