Jefferson leads Jazz past Magic despite early exit

Associated Press
12/5/2012 11:57:55 PM
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SALT LAKE CITY -- Al Jefferson had trouble sitting down and putting on his socks. He needed a trainer to help with his shoes and shirt.

But the Utah Jazz big man could still crack jokes through the pain of back spasms after scoring a season-high 31 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in an 87-81 victory Wednesday night over the Orlando Magic.

"That's the reason I bought the $25,000 bed," Jefferson said of the 10-foot wide, 12-foot long custom job he ordered this summer after he experienced similar back pain. "It was worth every dime. That's why I can't wait to get home and get in it right now."

Whatever works for Big Al.

Just about everything did Wednesday night until he corralled his final rebound with 1:29 remaining and the Jazz leading 85-81. Jefferson grabbed at his back under the basket, took a few steps, then hit the floor in obvious pain and finally had to be helped off.

"I'm glad he didn't crumble 2-3 minutes earlier or we would have been in trouble," teammate Randy Foye said.

Jefferson had just eight points at halftime but scored 17 in the third quarter and was the difference down the stretch as the Jazz held off a furious Orlando comeback attempt.

Orlando trailed by 14 in the first half and by 11 entering the fourth but took a 79-78 lead on Glen Davis' powerful jam. Foye's 3-pointer and back-to-back jumpers by Jefferson right before his injury sealed the win for Utah.

"That's why I get paid the big bucks," Jefferson said. "They expect me to go out there and lead the team, nothing less."

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn had plenty of praise for Jefferson.

"Al stays within himself," said Vaughn, who spent the first four years of his playing career in a Jazz uniform. "He knows his game and he makes jump shots, which makes his post game even more difficult to guard. ... When you get a guy like him rolling, he is tough to stop."

Davis led Orlando with 18 points. Jameer Nelson had 17 and Arron Afflalo added 16.

Paul Millsap scored 22 points for Utah, including 16 in the first half when the Jazz led by as many as 14.

The Magic managed only 15 points in the first quarter and 34 in the first half, but fought back behind Davis.

His three-point play pulled Orlando to 76-72 with 5:41 remaining and J.J. Redick's three-point play off a driving layup with 4:20 left had the Magic within 78-77. Davis' powerful dunk over two defenders gave Orlando a 79-78 lead with 3:33 left.

Foye, who started 0 for 6, countered with a 3-pointer to put the Jazz back on top 81-79 with 3:11 remaining. Jefferson then hit back-to-back jumpers to seal the win, finishing 13 of 20 from the field with two assists and a steal.

"I felt bad, missing all those shots when I had clear looks," Foye said. "(The last one) made up for it."

Orlando fought back in the third behind Redick, pulling to 56-53. But Utah closed the quarter on a 12-4 run to lead 68-57, with Jazz reserves providing the spark defensively. DeMarre Carroll had a pair of steals and helped force a backcourt violation. Jefferson was Utah's offence with a 17-point quarter on 6-of-9 shooting

"Tonight the shots were falling and, of course, we didn't want to (lose) four games in a row," Jefferson said. "No disrespect to Orlando, but they're the type of team you can attack on the inside."

Utah held a 30-14 edge on points in the paint in the first half while holding the Magic to 36 per cent shooting and forcing a dozen turnovers in stopping Orlando's winning streak at two.

"We did a great job of sharing the basketball tonight," Millsap said when asked about not losing another heartbreaker after building a big lead. "That was the key. ... We're a little banged up and that's what makes this game even more amazing."

Jefferson, despite difficulty dressing himself, vowed to be ready to go Friday night against Toronto.

Of course he had some medicine in hand, and the huge bed awaiting, explaining that it cost an extra $10,000 to have it done quickly rather than six to eight weeks.

"I don't miss games," Jefferson said. "I'll be ready to play unless I just can't walk."

NOTES: Clippers guard Chauncey Billups received a warning from the NBA on Wednesday about flopping for a call late in Monday's game against the Jazz when he kicked out his feet on a 3-pointer and drew a foul from Mo Williams. Billups sank two of three free throws with 1:14 left in an eventual one-point Jazz loss. "It does us a lot of good now, the game's over," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I thought we might have been right; we were right." ... Vaughn was drafted in the first round (No. 27) by the Jazz in 1997 and played in 224 games for Utah. ... Jazz shot-blocking specialist Derrick Favours missed his third straight game because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot. ... Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward went 0 for 6. ... Jazz F Marvin Williams returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous three games with concussion-like symptoms. He finished with eight points.

Glenn Davis Al Jefferson (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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