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Jazz throw away a win

Utah passes when game’s on the line

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The Jazz played Memphis on Saturday night without starting small forward Donyell Marshall, who is nursing a bruised hip.

Don't be surprised if several of Marshall's teammates come up with the same injury in the next day or so — because after what happened against the Grizzlies, they all should be kicking themselves hard in the hind-side.

Utah lost 97-95 to Memphis in double-overtime at the Delta Center, allowing Stromile Swift's game-winner to stand up and, more notably, dropping a game it had ample opportunity to win.

The blunder ended the 19-17 Jazz's winning streak at three games, and prevented them from winning for the eighth time in nine games.

Never was the Jazz more primed to pull out a thriller than at the end of regulation play, when, after rally from a dozen down late in the opening half, they had the ball with 2.2 seconds to go and the game tied at 83.

Bryon Russell in-bounded to all-time NBA assists leader John Stockton, who, instead of taking a wide-open jumper himself, passed off to well-guarded Karl Malone for a wild 20-footer that didn't come close to hitting the mark.

"Yeah, he had an open look," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said of Stockton, not exactly one afraid to have the ball in his hands with a game on the line.

"If he had to do it over again, I think he would have shot the ball," Sloan added. "Very seldom does John not shoot in that situation."

Later, Stockton was as perplexed as anyone: "There was something that made me think to pass," he said, "but I don't know what it was now."

Forced into the first of two five-minute overtime sessions, the Jazz botched their first three possessions, and quickly fell behind by 6. But with a 3-pointer from Stockton and a dunk by Russian rookie Andrei Kirilenko, they were soon back in it.

Grizzlies point guard Jason Williams then made a couple free throws for 2 of his team-high 22 points, putting Memphis up 91-88 with 17.3 seconds to go.

Again, Russell in-bounded to Stockton.

This time, the 39-year-old took his shot, swishing a trey with the help of both Malone's pick on Brevin Knight and the fact that Stockton stepped on Grant Long's foot, sending the Grizzlies' help-defender to the floor.

The Jazz struck first in OT No. 2, getting a free throw from Stockton because of a technical foul called on Grizzlies coach Sidney Lowe, who was livid that Swift had just been called for elbowing Scott Padgett.

With two Swift dunks, though, Memphis was up by 3. Stockton answered with a layup to make it 95-94 Grizzlies, and Kirilenko later tied the game by hitting the second of two free throws.

Swift's winner came with 1:08 to go, in the form of a simple 7-foot turnaround from inside the lane. The Jazz's ensuing possession produced only a pair of missed 18-foot jumpers by Malone and Kirilenko, giving Memphis the ball and a 2-point lead to protect with 27.9 seconds remaining.

Grizzlies rookie Shane Battier hoisted a trey with 5.5 seconds left and the shot clock running down, but Kirilenko blocked the shot, giving Utah one last hope.

Veteran guard John Starks — who has been stuck on the end of the Jazz bench lately, but was in the game anyway — wound up with the loose ball. Starks brought the ball up past halfcourt and then, in essence, panicked.

"I wanted to call timeout," Starks said. "I wanted to shoot the ball."

But he did neither, instead passing backward for Stockton, who never got the ball.

"I just made a bone-head play," Starks said.

So much for the Jazz going undefeated in its current five-game homestand.

Instead, Utah is 2-1 with two games to go in the Delta Center before heading out on a three-game trip — a stretch on the road that should provide ample time to ponder one that got away.

"Very frustrating," Padgett said. "It was a game we felt like we had won . . . Should have finished it off, in regulation."

NOTES: Marshall remains "day-to-day" with his bruised right hip, injured Thursday night vs. Houston . . . Padgett started in Marshall's place, marking his first start since he opened nine games as a rookie in the 1999-2000 season . . . Malone, who had 15 rebounds to go with his team-high 23 points, played a season-high 53 minutes — four shy of career-high . . . Memphis' absentees included injured regulars Michael Dickerson and Lorenzen Wright . . . Former Jazz center Ike Austin dressed but did not play for the Grizzlies. He has appeared in just 17 of Memphis' 36 games . . . The Grizzlies are on a three-game winning streak, but have won just 12 games. The Jazz are in good company in losing to them, as Memphis' other victims include the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento, New York, Toronto, Phoenix and Philadelphia (twice) . . . Jazz reserve big man John Amaechi scored his first basket since Dec. 10 vs. Dallas, a 17-game span . . . This was Utah's first two-overtime game since they beat the Lakers on Jan. 24, 2000. They are 7-4 all-time in double-OT games, and 1-4 in overtime games this season.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com