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Jefferson's last-second putback gives Jazz win over Kings

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Associated Press
3/23/2012 2:14:57 AM
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Devin Harris claimed he was trying to pass the ball to Utah teammate Al Jefferson, who was alone under the basket with time winding down.

Jefferson wasn't so sure but he wasn't going to argue, not after the Jazz extended their winning streak to five games to stay in the hunt for a possible playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Jefferson's basket with 0.9 seconds remaining lifted Utah to a 103-102 win over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night and helped the Jazz avoid what would have been a costly loss after they blew a 14-point second-half lead.

"I honestly thought it was a short shot," said Jefferson, who shot 13 for 19 from the floor. "I was at the basket by myself and that was the only way he could get it to me. It was a perfect pass."

The play was ruled a missed shot by Harris and a putback by Jefferson on the official score sheet.

Utah went almost 9 minutes without a basket in the fourth quarter and trailed 97-95 before making four of its five shots in the final 96 seconds.

Jefferson finished with 26 points and seven rebounds, Derrick Favors added 12 points and 10 rebounds and Gordon Hayward scored 18 points for Utah, which remained one-half game behind Houston for eighth place in the Western Conference.

The Jazz won despite the long scoring drought to begin the fourth quarter when they scored only eight points, six coming on free throws.

"We hung in there after (the Kings) came back and we didn't hang our heads low," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We are in a playoff hunt ... so this win was nice for us. We're fighting and scratching and doing whatever it takes to win."

Tyreke Evans scored 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter for the Kings. Marcus Thornton added 22 points and 18 rebounds, but shot an airball on his 3-point attempt at the buzzer.

Sacramento took the lead twice in the final 28 seconds but left Jefferson alone under the basket after Kings centre DeMarcus Cousins left to try to block Harris from the right baseline.

"I caught myself coming over to try to make it a difficult shot for Harris, which put me out of position," said Cousins, who had earlier gotten into a brief staredown match with Harris after the two collided while chasing a loose ball. "So I have to take that loss."

Harris, whose 17-foot jumper earlier had given Utah a 99-97 lead with 1:06 to go, insisted after the game he was trying to pass the ball to Jefferson all along.

"A pass, of course," a grinning Harris said. "When I saw Cousins step up, I just tried to get it to Al any way I could."

Utah limped into the game without several key players. The Jazz lost forward Josh Howard to a possible season-ending knee injury earlier in the week and was also without reserves Earl Watson (sprained left ankle) and Raja Bell (strained right adductor).

It didn't seem to bother them much against Sacramento, which started off well but went through a big slump in the second and third quarters to fall behind.

Evans nearly rallied the Kings in his second game as reserve. He scored seven of Sacramento's first 15 points in the fourth quarter, including a behind-the-back layup that put the Kings up 96-95 with 3:11 left.

"We did everything we could to get ourselves back into this game," Sacramento coach Keith Smart said. "We were one defensive stop and one rebound from winning."

Thornton's free throw extended Sacramento's lead before Jefferson tied it at 97-all with a 17-foot jumper. Harris then put the Jazz up with his own 17-footer.

After Thornton's 3 put the Kings back on top, Alec Burks banked in a short off-balance jumper with 12.3 seconds left to give Utah the lead.

Thornton's driving layup with 4.1 seconds left gave Sacramento a 102-101 lead but the Kings failed to defend Jefferson at the other end.

Harris finished with 14 points and six assists for Utah while Paul Millsap had 10 points and seven rebounds.

Jefferson had 12 points in the first quarter and the Jazz closed the period on a 10-2 run to take a 30-26 lead. Jefferson also harassed Cousins defensively, forcing the Kings centre into 2-of-10 shooting early.

Sacramento made only two shots over an 8-minute span before Evans provided a spark off the bench. Evans, who has been nursing a sprained left ankle, scored six straight points and Jimmer Fredette made a 3-pointer to pull the Kings within 42-35.

Evans made his first five shots and had 12 points in the first half but Utah still led 58-48 at the break.

The Jazz, who went into the night with only six road wins, led by 14 in the third quarter before Sacramento made its run in the fourth.

NOTES: Kings G/F Terrence Williams, who signed a 10-day contract on Wednesday, was not in uniform. ... Smart and Sacramento F Jason Thompson were both charged with technical fouls, Smart's coming in the fourth quarter. ... Thompson is day-to-day after suffering a strained left ankle in the final 15 seconds of the game.

Al Jefferson (Photo: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
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