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Just when Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan was starting to play his regulars most of the way in exhibition games, he went the other direction Friday night. In the fourth quarter against Boston in Riverfront Coliseum, Sloan kept Karl Malone, John Stockton and Mark Eaton on the bench.

And strangely enough, the Jazz rallied for a 94-92 victory, giving the Celtics their first preseason loss.Thurl Bailey's hook shot and 3-pointer and Blue Edwards' two free throws gave them seven straight points late in the game. At the end, Ed Pinckney missed on a drive and the Jazz survived.

Now 3-2 for the exhibition season with two games left, the Jazz face Portland Sunday night in Corvallis, Ore., and Phoenix Monday night in the Huntsman Center. Boston is 6-1 with one game left.

Malone led the Jazz with 19 points in three quarters, while Bailey added 13 and Edwards 12. Guard Reggie Lewis scored 23 for Boston, while Larry Bird added 11 and BYU rookie Michael Smith had eight, playing briefly in the second and fourth quarters.

The game, sold by the Jazz to a Cincinnati promoter, attracted a sellout crowd of 16,106. The Jazz received a flat guarantee for the game, not tied to attendance.

Missing Kevin McHale, the Celtics used a no-name starting lineup that included Scooter Barry and Dave Popson and trailed by as many as 11 points in the first quarter before cutting the lead to 29-26. Sloan mixed things up in the second quarter, using all three of his young point guards for brief stretches, and the Jazz fell behind 54-48 at halftime.

Sloan tightened things up in the third quarter by using his starters plus Bailey and Mike Brown and the Jazz rallied to take the lead. Boston still finished the quarter with a 77-73 edge.

The fourth quarter was close all the way. Bobby Hansen and Eric Leckner each scored twice inside for the Jazz, but the Celtics still led by four after two Lewis free throws in the last two minutes. That's when Bailey came alive with his line-drive hook and go-ahead 3-pointer - replays showed that Bailey was clearly over the line on the play, but the shot stood.

Edwards then forced a steal and made two free throws to make it 94-91 with 31 seconds left, before things turned a little wild. Bird missed a 3-pointer and Brown rebounded, but Jim Les lost the ball in backcourt and was called for a loose-ball foul. Charles Smith made the first free throw and missed the second intentionally - the Jazz rebounded, only to have Edwards lose the ball out of bounds when he ran into traffic.

That gave the Celtics their last chance, but Pinckney's bank shot was too hard.

While Joe Hillman and Eric Johnson also appeared briefly, Les played the whole fourth quarter in what was apparently his showcase game in the battle for the backup point-guard job. Johnson had his chance Wednesday against Portland, and Hillman will likely play the most of three Sunday. No clues, meanwhile, were evident about Sloan's plans for forwards Jose Ortiz and Raymond Brown.