Utah Jazz: Jazz find holiday cheer in Orlando
Orlando • Mo Williams had to clap carefully, and probably he shouldn't be moving his hand that way anyhow. But on a night like this, the point guard couldn't help it and tenderly slapped his hard plastic cast into an open palm.
As Williams looked on, sidelined with a potentially devastating injury to his right thumb, the Jazz (15-14) overcame a 16-point first-half deficit, key missed free throws and a persistent Orlando Magic team to win 97-93 on Sunday in front of 17,721 at Amway Center.
On a night full of unexpected heroes Jamaal Tinsley, Alec Burks and Orlando's Gustavo Ayon, a fretfully poor free-throw shooter the Jazz evened their record on this historically disruptive pre-Christmas road trip and headed home armed with a whisper of positivity.
"That's who we are," Paul Millsap said. "That's what we have. We go to what we have. We have a bunch of guys who can play."
On Sunday, that bunch included a guy who barely plays, Burks, and another who lately hadn't played well, Gordon Hayward.
The win was particularly satisfying in that it came on the heels of two losses by a combined 36 points, including 105-89 drubbing at the hands of the defending champion Miami Heat on Saturday. Two nights before that, they lost by 20 at Indiana.
Early Sunday, they looked dead set on dropping the fourth game of their road trip.
The Magic (12-14) shot 66.7 percent from the field in the first quarter and led by as much as 39-23 before the Jazz's bench unit came in to start a rally.
"That second group did a good job for us," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "They started our runs, then the other guys came in and finished it off for us."
Millsap led the Jazz with 18 points and seven rebounds, but the Jazz could say they won with a full team effort. Hayward, who has not been as efficient since his move to the bench in mid-November and committed five turnovers two games ago, scored 17 points, and Derrick Favors scored seven of his 12 in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Tinsley, who started in place of Williams and was just 3-of-8 from 3, made one with 2:44 left to put the Jazz up 88-87.
But a truly unexpected hero? Give that to Burks, who played a season-high 20 minutes and scored eight points on 3-of-7 shooting.
"It was a back-to-back," Jazz guard Randy Foye said. "The guys out there were a little sluggish, he came in and he brought us that energy. He helped get us to where we were. He was a big part of this win tonight."
While the Jazz took their first lead early in the third quarter at 50-49, things weren't settled until Ayon missed a pair of free throws with 2.4 seconds left that could have sent the game to overtime. Ayon entered the game a 59.3 percent free-throw shooter, but before those two misses had made 3 of 4 against the Jazz.
The Jazz led 92-90 with 1:36 remaining when Randy Foye stripped J.J. Redick of the ball to start a string of three straight key defensive plays by the Jazz. On the next possession, Foye blocked an Ayon floater. Two trips later down the floor, with 22.9 seconds left, Hayward blocked a jumper by Arron Afflalo, who led the Magic with 20 points.
After Foye made a pair of free throws to put the Jazz up 94-90 with 17.3 seconds remaining, Redick made a 3-pointer with 11.5 seconds left.
The Magic had a chance after Paul Millsap split free throws to only extend the lead to two, but Ayon came up big for the Jazz.
"He bailed me out," Millsap said. "Even if he would have made two, we still would have a chance to win the game or try to win in overtime. Just stayed positive throughout the whole thing."
And late Sunday night, into the early morning of Christmas Eve, the Jazz had reason to stay positive throughout a long plane ride home.
Storylines Jazz 97, Magic 93
R The Jazz improve to 4-1 in games without starting point guard Mo Williams.
• Orlando's Arron Afflalo scores 13 points in the first quarter, but adds just 7 more the rest of the way.
• The Jazz force 20 turnovers, which they turn into 22 points.