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Utah Jazz: This time, Jazz hang onto lead, beat Pistons 90-87
Al Jefferson
Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap, right, and guard Randy Foye, left, crowd Detroit Pistons forward Kyle Singler during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Detroit Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince (22) passes the ball as Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) defends during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Utah Jazz guard Mo Williams, left, defends on a shot by Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe (10) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe (10) dunks during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap, right, and guard Randy Foye, left, crowd Detroit Pistons forward Kyle Singler during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Detroit Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince (22) is seen during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe (10) is seen during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Detroit Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince (22) is seen during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Detroit Pistons forward Kyle Singler (25) is seen during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Referee Scott Wall (31) signals during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game between the Detroit Pistons and the Utah Jazz at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Detroit Pistons forward Kyle Singler passes during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Detroit Pistons forward Austin Daye (5) is seen during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Referee Marat Kogut, left, and Scott Wall are seen during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game between the Detroit Pistons and the Utah Jazz at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Detroit Pistons guard Will Bynum (12) is seen during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Referee Bill Kennedy is seen during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game between the Detroit Pistons and the Utah Jazz at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap looks to pass during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Knight (7), defended by Utah Jazz forward DeMarre Carroll, shoots a 3-pointer during the closing seconds during the second half of an NBA basketball game at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. Knight missed the shot that would have tied the game. The Jazz won 90-87.(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) and Detroit Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey (3) reach for a rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. The Jazz won 90-87. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) dunks in front of Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (1) during the second half of an NBA basketball game at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. The Jazz won 90-87. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) dunks on Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (1) during the second half of an NBA basketball game at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Auburn Hills, Mich. • They bobbled and bumbled, like the night before. They missed free throws, like the night before. By their own admission, they relaxed. Just like the night before.

The salient difference for the Utah Jazz was that, this time, they only choked most of their lead away.

One night after blowing a 15-point lead in a loss at Atlanta, they nearly did it again. But where there wasn’t fight on Friday, there was just enough on Saturday. After falling behind by 15 in the second quarter, the Jazz charged ahead, then held on for a 90-87 victory over the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

“I’m happy about the win,” center Al Jefferson said, “but I still think we ain’t closing the game out the way we supposed to.”

Paul Millsap split free throws with 4.1 seconds remaining to give the Jazz a 3-point lead, but was acquitted when Brandon Knight’s well-defended 3-pointer at the buzzer — credit an uncalled bump by DeMarre Carroll, there — fell well short.

Jefferson led the Jazz (20-19) with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and keyed a furious third-quarter rally in which the Jazz outscored the Pistons 25-11. The momentum was carried into the fourth quarter by the second unit, led by Alec Burks, who finished with 12 points. But after a highlight-reel dunk by Burks with 3:18 left, the Pistons closed the game on a 12-2 run and held the Jazz without a field goal.

Story continues below

“We’ve got to be able to close out games,” Gordon Hayward said. “We almost lost it.”

Following Burks’ dunk, the Jazz’s final possessions played out this way: miss, turnover, turnover, miss, split free throws, miss, offensive foul, turnover, split free throws.

Meanwhile, the Pistons played like a real-life version of NBA 2K13 — imagine a gamer repeatedly mashing the “X” button — forcing loose balls and generally wreaking havoc. Will Bynum, who Randy Foye called “a real strong guy who puts his hands on you, grabs you,” scored eight of his 13 points in the final two minutes.

All that aside, the Jazz, for the record — which happens to be back above .500 — did not lose it, as Hayward feared. Their composure? Certainly a little. Their momentum? All of it. But the thing that mattered as they boarded a late-night jet bound for Salt Lake? They had that, neatly packaged as a key part of what boils down to an acceptable 2-1 road trip, with the defending champion Miami Heat coming to town on Monday.

“This team has shown a lot of resilience all year,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We’re a proud group, if we don’t play our best basketball we want to come back the next night.”

It didn’t look like it from the beginning, though. The Pistons led 39-24 midway through the second quarter and outshot the Jazz 56.3 percent to 43.2 percent to take a 50-39 lead into halftime.

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At a glance

Storylines Jazz 90, Pistons 87

The Jazz overcome a 15-point deficit but nearly blow their own 13-point, fourth-quarter lead.

» Al Jefferson leads the Jazz with 20 points and 10 rebounds.


 
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