It was a first-run basketball game Tuesday night at the Delta Center, but forgive anyone who left thinking they were subjected to a rerun.
The Utah Jazz - following the exact story line they used back on Nov. 24 - blew a huge fourth-quarter lead when a young, quick-as-lightning point guard took over the game. It went into overtime, just as before, where the Jazz were somehow able to stop the bleeding enough to squeak out a victory.But it wasn't actually a rerun at all. If fact, it wasn't even against the same team. The Jazz - who breathed a collective sigh of relief when the final buzzer sounded - edged the Allen Iverson-led Philadelphia 76ers, 98-95.
"We had to have a little bit of luck to win a game like this," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.
They also had to have a little bit of complacency to let it happen. Make that a lot of complacency.
The Sixers came back from being 16 points down with less than 10 minutes to play thanks to Iverson. It was eerily similar to Utah's pre-Thanksgiving game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. In that one, the Jazz blew a 21-point advantage as point guard Stephon Marbury ran wild to send it into an extra period.
As ugly as both near-choke jobs may have been, however, they still count as victories. Utah improved to 21-11 to pull back even with the San Antonio Spurs atop the Midwest Division standings. The Sixers, who upset the Los Angeles Lakers in their last outing, fell to 9-23.
"We shouldn't take anything away from Philadelphia," said Jazz forward Adam Keefe. "I think, after seeing them play in person, that win down in L.A. wasn't a fluke. I'm amazed at their record after the way they've played the last two games."
The Jazz started the fourth quarter with a 12-point lead. They increased it to 16 on a Shandon Anderson layup with 9:39 to play. But 12 consecutive points by the Sixers pulled them to within four, at 83-79, with four minutes remaining.
Utah still led by three points with less than a minute to play, but Iverson stole the ball from John Stockton and went in for a breakaway dunk with 32 seconds left. After a pair of Stockton free throws put Utah back up by three, Iverson, with Stockton on him like a glove, banked home a running, off-balance 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds remaining to force overtime.
"We just stopped executing to allow them to get back," explained Stockton. "We weren't as sharp at either the offensive or defensive end as we were earlier in the game. That really offered the opportunity for them to come back in the game, and they took advantage of that."
The Sixers, who shot 58 percent from the field as a team in the fourth quarter, went cold - making just 1-for-11 in the overtime. Jeff Hornacek and Karl Malone netted four points each, and the Jazz escaped when Derrick Coleman's wide open 3-pointer that would have sent it to a second OT rimmed out at the buzzer.
Malone - who shot just 2-for-12 from the field in the second half - finished with 21 points and just five rebounds. Hornacek scored 21, too, with five assists and six boards, while Stockton netted 16 points with 14 assists in a season-high 42 minutes.
But the real star for the Jazz was Greg Ostertag. Starting his second consecutive game in place of the injured Antoine Carr (strained hamstring), Ostertag blocked a career-high 11 shots. He also played a team-high 49 minutes, committing just three fouls.
"He came out of nowhere a couple of times to block some shots," said Bryon Russell, who later jokingly referred to Ostertag as "that big goofball."
"I was just in the right place at the right time," said Ostertag, who also added a team-best nine rebounds.
Iverson appears to have improved his all-around floor-game in this, his sophomore season in the NBA. He finished with 27 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals. Coleman didn't have a great shooting night, but he held his own against Malone. He finished with 16 points and nine boards.
The Sixers left grumbling about the officiating and a lack of respect in the league, but their new coach was proud of the effort.
"I hope these guys feel good about themselves," said Philadelphia coach Larry Brown, after the final outing of a seven-game road swing. "We've improved this whole trip."
The Jazz will be back in action Thursday night at the Delta Center when the Milwaukee Bucks make their only visit of the season.