9:00 PM ET, March 12, 2012
EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
Al Jefferson powers Jazz past Pistons hours after grandmother's death
SALT LAKE CITY -- Al Jefferson looked at the ceiling and pounded his chest as he does after every game.
Monday night it was different. Jefferson was playing for his 82-year-old maternal grandmother, who died unexpectedly about 24 hours earlier.
"I know she wanted me to go out and play and do my job and that's what I did," he said.
Afterward his teammates went to him immediately.
"Your teammates (are) your second family," said Jefferson, who is in his second year with the Jazz. "They've been very supportive. They didn't even expect me to play tonight. I told them I was coming ... 100 percent ready to win the game because it's all about business when you step on that court."
The Jazz trailed 77-75 entering the fourth quarter but outscored Detroit 30-13 in the final 12 minutes.
C.J. Miles added 15 points, including three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, to help the Jazz end a two-game skid and snap Detroit's three-game winning streak.
"I was just trying to stay patient, stay ready," said Miles, who hit back-to-back 3s to put Utah ahead 85-82 with 7:59 left.'
Jason Maxiell's jumper would tie it at 87 but the Jazz finished on an 18-3 run, with Jefferson's 18-footer and Miles' final 3-pointer sealing it after Detroit had pulled within 93-89.
Rodney Stuckey scored 29 points for the Pistons, who have not won in Salt Lake City since 2002 -losing their last nine visits.
"Down the stretch they made some crucial shots," said Stuckey, who was 10 of 17 overall.
"They probably made three or four 3-pointers with five seconds or less (on the shot clock) that really hurt us. Give them credit. They executed down the stretch."
The win ended a drama-filled day for the Jazz that started with a closed-door meeting between guard Raja Bell and team brass. It came two days after Bell was sent home from a road trip following a verbal clash with coach Tyrone Corbin, but both sides proclaimed the matter closed. Bell started, but had just one point.
Overall, Utah sank 7 of 11 from beyond the arc, none sweeter than the one Jefferson hit.
With the game in hand and the clock winding down, Harris fed him a shot at the arc. It hit nothing but net.
It was his first 3-pointer since high school and snapped an 0-for-23 streak in eight pros seasons.
"When I hit that shot, I just felt like it was one of those nights for me," Jefferson said.
He knew Gladys Jefferson, who died Sunday night, was with him.
She had essentially raised him in Prentiss, Miss., and continued to watch every one of his games on television -- even when he played late on the West Coast. He is expected to attend her funeral Friday and miss weekend games against Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Though he missed Monday morning's shootaround because he didn't get any sleep Sunday night, he said she would have wanted him to play Monday.
He spoke fondly of the "special" lady, recalling days he got up early in the hot Mississippi summers, and played hoops alone while she watched and washed clothes.
"She's the one who made me the man I am today," he said. "She was with me when I made mistakes, and with me when I did great. I know she's resting. It's tough to go through, but it's a part of life and you must go on."
Jefferson had dealt with the deaths of his parents three years ago, and would get through this.
"The bad thing about this is I go home and when I'm at home I think a lot," Jefferson said. "That's the good thing, about being around teammates and playing basketball everything goes out of your mind. Now reality will probably set in."
Tayshaun Prince finished with nine points, leaving him two shy of becoming just the 10th Piston to score 9,000 career points. ... Utah entered Monday tied for 11th in the Western Conference, but needs only a few wins to get back in playoff contention. ... The Jazz have a favorable schedule this week before facing the Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder next week. ... The loss started a grueling stretch of 10 games in 10 cities for the Pistons.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||34-71 (.479)||39-72 (.542)|
|3PM-3PA||3-12 (.250)||7-11 (.636)|
|FTM-FTA||19-28 (.679)||20-26 (.769)|
|Fast Break Points||17||14|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||19 (0/0)||23 (0/0)|