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Jazz rally but fate was sealed

One of these days, the Utah Jazz will earn a fourth-quarter come-from-behind victory. It has to happen sooner or later.

Doesn't it?It's now two-thirds of the way through the season and - believe it or not - the Jazz have not won a single game when they've been behind entering the fourth quarter.

Beat the Jazz for the first three quarters, and you'll beat the Jazz, it seems. Utah has trailed entering the final period 13 times this year.

It has lost all 13 of those games.

The Jazz came close to breaking that trend on Tuesday night against the Miami Heat in the Delta Center. The bright side for Utah is that there was a strong comeback attempt this time.

But the Heat, breaking Utah's seven-game winning streak overall and in the series, held off the Jazz 104-102 when John Stockton's desperation 45-footer at the buzzer was short.

"They just came into our building and kicked our rear end," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "We didn't really decide to get out and get after it until the end. . . . They were more prepared than we were, and they deserved to win."

The loss dropped the Jazz to 37-16 on the year, cutting their lead in the Midwest Division to one game over the San Antonio Spurs. The Heat, winners of 11 of their last 12 and eight in a row on the road, improved to 38-18.

"It was a good win, obviously," said Pat Riley, who beat the Jazz for the first time in six tries as the coach of the Heat. "We played real well against a real good team on the road."

Miami, which went on an 18-2 run in the third quarter, led 77-67 after three. They'd increased their advantage to 15 points five minutes into the final period.

In the final six minutes, however, the Jazz made the game interesting to the national cable audience that stuck around. Jeff Hornacek scored six and Karl Malone added four as the Jazz went on a 10-1 run to cut the gap to six with 4:26 remaining.

A Malone 3-point play with 2:15 left cut it to five, 96-91. A pair of Bryon Russell free throws with 1:06 to play pulled the Jazz to within a bucket, 98-96. By then, the Delta Center crowd was going nuts.

Miami's Tim Hardaway nailed a clutch 3-pointer to silence the crowd, but Stockton got the points right back with a trey of his own with 39 seconds left. Mourning, Miami's other all-star, hit an 18-foot jumper with 21 seconds remaining to put the Heat up four, only to have Stockton nail another clutch three, this time with 16 seconds remaining, to cut the gap to 103-102.

"Stockton pulled some shots out of his you-know-what," said Mourning. "He just pulled them out, and that's typical Stockton."

But unlike the two-point Jazz victory over the Heat two years ago in the Delta Center when Stockton hit the game-winner with 1.9 seconds remaining, it wasn't to be for Utah on Tuesday.

After Hardaway made one of two free throws, Malone missed a 19-footer that would have tied the game with six seconds left. Voshon Lenard, who nailed five 3-pointers on the night, gift-wrapped one last chance for the Jazz, however, when he missed a pair of free throws.

But with only 2.2 seconds to work with and the length of the court to cover, the best the Jazz could get was a 45-foot attempt from Stockton that fell short.

"Miami is just too talented to give them that sort of lead," said Jazz forward Adam Keefe.

"They played well, and it's very difficult to come back from 10 or 12 points back. You can't do that against good teams. It works out sometimes against poor teams, but against good teams you can't do it."

Then again, it hasn't mattered if it's a good (Miami) or bad (L.A. Clippers) team this season when it comes to coming back from deficits entering the fourth quarter for Utah. The Jazz haven't beaten any of them.

Malone, who was just 1-for-7 shooting in the third quarter when the Heat built up its lead, finished with a game-high 26 points and 11 rebounds. Hornacek scored 14, while Shandon Anderson and Stockton netted 12 each.

The Heat had six players net double figures, led by Mourning and Lenard with 20 each. Miami was 12-for-27, 44.4 percent, as a team from 3-point range and outrebounded the Jazz by six.

Next up, the Jazz will get another stiff home test when they face Danny Ainge's Phoenix Suns at 7 p.m. on Thursday night. Another familiar face on the Suns bench will be former BYU coach Roger Reid, now an assistant to Ainge.

The Jazz will open the first of two five-game trips in the month of March on Sunday in Houston.