Those masters of suspense, the Utah Jazz, did it again Wednesday night at the Delta Center. Not wanting to let any of the 19,911 fans get an early start for home, the Jazz blew a 19-point second-half lead before fighting off the Boston Celtics for a 110-107 victory in overtime.

Even after jumping out to a six-point lead early in the overtime, the Jazz let the Celtics creep back into the game, which wasn't decided until a 3-point try by Sherman Douglas at the buzzer missed.The 20th win of the year for the Jazz was their eighth by four points or less. The good news for the Jazz is that they're winning the close ones this year. The bad news is, they're not putting opponents - particularly lesser opponents - away when they have the chance.

"We've done that a lot this year," said Jeff Malone, who scored 22 points. "We tend to slack off a little bit and then we have to fight back to win ball games. This is a good lesson for us."

Coach Jerry Sloan, of course, blamed the letup on defense.

"Again, we got casual defensively," he said. "Once we got the lead, we started playing casual and thinking, `Oh, we've got this game in the bag.' When you get cool in this league, you'll be out of it real quick. We were very lucky to win the game."

Karl Malone didn't see what all the fuss was about. Despite the victory and a 25-point, 15-rebound, 8-assist performance, the Mailman was clearly miffed after the game.

"Everybody wants to jump up and down and whoop and holler because we lost a 19-point lead. We don't need to be reminded that we didn't play well," he said. "In this business you try to get a win. To me, I don't care how we won. What's most important is that we won."

But this one was frighteningly close to a loss and would have been except for some abysmal free throw shooting by the Celtics.

For the game, the Celtics finished 23 for 39 from the foul stripe for 59 percent. Xavier McDaniel missed six of eight, while Sherman Douglas missed four of eight. Dino Radja only missed two, but it was his miss with 4.0 seconds left in regulation that gave the Jazz the opportunity to win in overtime.

The Jazz had opened up a close game in the first half with a 12-2 run in the last 2:10 to make it 61-50 at halftime.

At the start of the second half, the Jazz made six of their first seven shots while the Celtics threw up bricks. After a 3-pointer by John Stockton, the Jazz led 74-55 with 7:32 left in the third quarter. The Celtics, who came in on a six-game losing skid, looked sunk.

But the Jazz couldn't apply the screws.

"We relaxed, and if you relax enough in this league, they'll make you pay for it," said Tyrone Corbin.

By the end of the third quarter, Boston had crept within six at 81-75. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Celtics took the lead at 89-88 on a 20-footer by McDaniel and a suddenly several Celtics fans appeared out of the Delta Center woodwork.

With a minute left, Tom Chambers scored inside on s finger roll to make it 99-97 Jazz. Then McDaniel hit one of two free throws with 43 seconds left. A 17-footer by Chambers with 24 seconds left went in and out, giving Boston a last chance to win it.

Douglas who had tied the score at 97 with a running left-handed bank shot as the shot clock expired, missed a 20-footer from out front, but Radja outmuscled Chambers for the rebound and drew a foul with four seconds left. He missed the first, but sank the second and when Jeff Malone's 20-footer missed at the buzzer, it was time for the Jazz's third overtime of the season.

In the OT, Chambers scored inside and Jeff Malone and Stockton made back-to-back steals to put the Jazz up 105-99 with 3:36 left. But do you think the Jazz were home free?

Of course not.

They committed a couple of turnovers and when Rick Fox hit a pair of free throws with 14.4 seconds left, the Jazz lead was two, 109-107.

Stockton hit one of two free throws and the Celtics had not one, but two chances to force another overtime. First Douglas missed a trey from out front and another from the corner as time ran out.

Fox and McDaniel, neither of whom even played the first quarter, finished with 28 and 22 points, respectively, for the Celtics. Douglas added 16.

View Comments

Besides the 47 points from the Malones, the Jazz got 17 points and 17 assists from Stockton, 16 points from Chambers and 11 from Corbin. Stockton's steal in the overtime was the 1,900th of his career.

The Mailman was a little disappointed about not getting the first triple-double of his career. He came close, but after getting six assists in the first half, he only came up with two in the second half and overtime.

"One of these days I'm going to get one," he said as he perused the stat sheet.

Next up for the Jazz is a road game at Portland Sunday night. Then they'll return to Utah for three games at the Delta Center, Monday against Dallas, Wednesday against Phoenix and Friday against Miami.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.