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Block party — Late rejection preserves Jazz win

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If their first three outings weren't enough to make believers out of the naysayers, maybe what they did Monday night will help make their case.

In their fourth game of the 2006-07 season, after all, the Jazz didn't just post another victory.

They did so in style, extending the NBA's best start to 4-0 by beating Detroit 103-101 in a Delta Center doozy that featured double-doubles from Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur, a double-block by Okur and Andrei Kirilenko that saved Utah from going to overtime and a triple-X postgame rant from the Pistons.

"It's a b----," said Detroit coach Flip Saunders, whose club was tagged with three technical fouls — one each on Saunders and bad-boy Rasheed Wallace in the second quarter, and the other on assistant coach Dave Cowens at a critical juncture late in the fourth quarter.

"That was a hard-fought game," Saunders added. "Both teams played hard. You don't want a game decided by technical fouls. I just don't agree."

The Jazz, meanwhile, all seemed to be in agreement that their win was a quality one over a legitimate opponent — even if they did have to hold their collective breath until making certain this one was in the bag.

"This team right here," point guard Deron Williams said of the 2-2 Pistons, "is one of the best ball clubs in the NBA, hands down."

"Obviously," guard Derek Fisher added, "they're one of the best teams in the league."

Yet it's the Jazz — along with 3-0 Philadelphia and 3-0 New Orleans/Oklahoma City — who remain among the league final few unbeatens.

For that, the Jazz have their horses to thank.

Okur, who finished with a team-high 23 points and another 10 rebounds, drove a few steps on Wallace before banking in an awkward fallaway jumper that put the Jazz up for good at 97-96 with two minutes and 36 seconds remaining.

After Wallace was called for a foul on the play, Detroit called a timeout. Saunders complained to referee Steve Javie, who shooed him back to the Pistons bench.

A few moments later, Cowens was called for the technical — apparently for mouthing off. Fisher hit the free throw stemming from that tech, and Okur followed with a freebie that resulted from the foul on Wallace to make it 99-96 Jazz.

Okur was fouled again by Wallace with 33.5 seconds to go, and hit both free throws to put Utah up 103-100. Pistons point Chauncey Billups made a free throw of his own two seconds later, but missed his second attempt from the line to leave Detroit down by two.

Boozer, who finished with 11 boards and 20 points to polish his fourth double-double in as many games, pulled down the rebound of Billups' miss to send the Jazz off on their final possession.

It ended in near-disaster when Williams, realizing he didn't really have a decent shot, turned the corner and tossed up a baseline prayer that did not fall. The rebound went to Wallace, but Williams knocked it away and attempted to regain control. He didn't have much of a grip on the ball, though, and tried kicking it out to Fisher.

That allowed Detroit's Tayshaun Prince to steal possession and pass ahead to Rip Hamilton, who raced down the lane with time winding down.

"I got a little nervous about that," Williams said.

He was not alone.

"I was like, 'Oh, oh,' " Kirilenko said.

Okur, however, managed to block Hamilton's layup attempt from the front while Kirilenko, a nano-second later, got a piece of the ball from behind.

"Double-block," Kirilenko said.

Hamilton's attempt, put up with just one second remaining, fell into Billups' hands — but time had already expired before was he able to put a follow shot that, as it turned out, didn't fall anyway.

"I see red screen on board (indicating no time left)," Kirilenko said, "and it's like, 'Yes, yes, go home.' "

Actually, though, the Jazz will be fleeing home — flying today to New Jersey for a three-game Eastern road swing that begins Wednesday night against the Nets and continues with a back-to-back set Friday at Boston and Saturday at Milwaukee.

They'll depart feeling awfully good about having taken care of business against one of the East's best — a defining statement after early wins against Western Conference opponents Houston, Phoenix and Golden State.

"Obviously," Fisher said after the Jazz matched their 4-0 start from 2004-05, and looked ahead to perhaps matching a 5-0 start from 2000-01, "this type of win says a little bit more than maybe a win against Golden State, or other teams that people don't see as one of the best teams."


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com