Bryon Russell figured out how to get around the Miami Heat's defense: Go over it.
Russell's 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds to play gave the Utah Jazz an 84-81 win over the Heat on Tuesday night. The Jazz erased an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit to win at home for the 24th time in their last 25 games.
Russell's heroics capped an intense, hard-pounding game in which both teams lived up to their billing as two of the league's most physically intimidating squads. Russell called it Utah's most physical game of the year "by far."
"We had to buckle down and say, `Hey, we're not going to lose to a team we only see once a year, unless it's in the finals,"' he said. "You've got to fight fire with fire, and they're one of the toughest teams in the league. It was physical, but it was clean, and that's fun."
The Heat appeared to have the game in hand midway through the fourth quarter, but it wilted in front of a deafening Delta Center crowd and a Jazz defense that played best when it counted the most. Miami had just three points in the game's final 4:12.
Tim Hardaway had 30 points, including 18 in a second-half outside barrage, and Alonzo Mourning added 11 points and 13 rebounds. But Mourning went scoreless in the game's final 7:22 and Hardaway missed two key shots and turned the ball over in the final 90 seconds.
"We gave this game away, most definitely," Hardaway said. "They're a good team, but we had them on the ropes."
But whilthe Heat led on the scoreboard much of the evening, they were blown out at the free throw line. The Heat shot just six free throws in the game -- two more than the league's record low -- and none in the second half.
After the game, most of the Heat avoided talking about the foul discrepancy, but their steaming silences spoke volumes.
"No, I won't. End of story," Heat coach Pat Riley said when asked if he would comment.
The Heat shot 3-for-6 from the foul line while Utah was 21-for-25.
Karl Malone hit two free throws to tie the score at 81 with 42 seconds to play, then Dan Majerle and Clarence Weatherspoon each passed up open shots as the Heat committed a shot clock violation, giving Utah the ball with 18.1 seconds left.
"We wanted to run a play to 'Zo, and they just loaded up on it and made a commitment," Riley said. "That's something that very rarely happens."
| Miami's Alonzo Mourning and Utah's Karl Malone tangle for a loose ball. (AP)|
John Stockton then got the ball to Russell on the right wing, and he hit his fourth 3-pointer of the second half over Majerle's outstretched hand. Russell finished with 17 points, while Stockton had 12 points and eight assists.
Utah, which lost its two previous games in overtime on the road, avoided losing three straight for the first time since January 1997. Utah has beaten Miami in seven of their last eight meetings.
Miami, which lost its second straight game to a division leader after a Saturday loss to Indiana, fell into a tie for the Atlantic Division lead with Orlando.
Malone finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds but was just 6-for-21 from the field. He looked tired after Utah's recently completed four-game road trip, as did most of his teammates.
"The guys really created their own energy tonight, but we still struggled all night long," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "I told them I think this might be our best comeback this season."
Miami opened the second half with an 18-6 run and led 63-57 entering the fourth quarter. At times, the Jazz seemed lucky to hang with the Heat as Hardaway, who was 6-for-13 on 3-pointers, buried jumper after jumper over Stockton and Howard Eisley.
Miami led 71-63 with 9:09 to play, but the Jazz chipped back with inside scoring from Malone and Russell's outside shooting. Stockton hit Greg Ostertag for a thunderous dunk that tied the score at 78-78 with 1:56 to play.
Malone's free throw with 1:12 left gave Utah a 79-78 lead, its first in the second half. On Miami's next possession, Mourning floored Stockton with a crushing pick, and Hardaway hit a 3-pointer as Sloan screamed for a foul.
After Russell's game-winner, the Heat inbounded the ball to Hardaway, but he was double-covered and missed the basket by two feet on his desperation shot.
- Mourning threw down a fourth-quarter dunk so ferocious that a child sitting in the fourth row behind the basket began crying.
- Utah and Miami are the only two teams yet to allow an opponent to shoot better than 50 percent in a game.
- The Heat made a 3-pointer in their NBA-record 400th consecutive game.
- In the third quarter, Hardaway attempted his famed crossover dribble -- and bounced the ball off his foot into Sloan's arms.
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