AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Utah Jazz often talk about leaving tough losses behind them once they exit the locker room. It was clear, however, that Friday night's gut-wrenching defeat followed them 750 miles from Atlanta to Michigan on Saturday.
"I don't think no one even spoke until game time," Jazz guard Randy Foye said. "Everybody still had that sick feeling in their stomach that we gave the game away last night."
Conversation wasn't the only thing that was missing in the first half.
Midway through their game against the Detroit Pistons, the Jazz looked lethargic, disinterested and dejected while falling behind big.
In the second half, they did to the Pistons what the Hawks did to them.
After the sluggish start, the Jazz rallied out of a 15-point deficit (like the one they blew Friday), built their own late double-digit advantage and then held on for dear life to escape The Palace at Auburn Hills with a 90-87 victory over the Pistons.
"I feel like it was a little hangover from last night, a tough loss. We felt we should've won that game," Jazz power forward Paul Millsap said, referring to Utah's rough 103-95 loss to the Hawks in a game they led by 15 points in the second half.
"But we still didn't let it deter us from what we wanted to do," Millsap added. "We wanted to come out and win the game. We came out in the second half with a better sense of urgency than in the first, and we did great."
Earlier this week, Al Jefferson called the Jazz's three-game road swing a business trip.
It took awhile Saturday for Big Al, but he shook off Friday's funk with a flare.
"He understand the guys feed off of him. He did a great job, especially in that third quarter, just being the big guy inside," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We were able to get the ball to him. They denied him, fronted him but he continued to work. He made some great plays for us."
Jefferson carried Utah back into this contest, scoring 20 points overall. A "Jefferstreak" by him included eight in a row in the momentum-changing third quarter when the Jazz used a 15-2 surge to tie the contest at 56-all.
"No. 1 is defense. We played great defense," said Jefferson, who also had four steals and three assists. "We talked to each other. We helped each other. And all of a sudden, their shots weren't coming so easily."
And suddenly, his were.
Jefferson gave the Jazz their first lead with a jumper late in the third — his 10th point of the quarter.
"I told Paul, 'It starts with us. We lead and everybody else is going to follow,'" Jefferson said. "And that's what we did."
Millsap added six of his 17 points in the comeback quarter, during which the Jazz limited the Pistons to just 11 points.
"It's up to us. It starts with us," Millsap said. "How we play this team goes, so we've got to make sure we do a great job of coming out and playing with energy and a sense of urgency."
After convincing Corbin to keep him in the game after the end of the third quarter, Jefferson had back-to-back dunks to help Utah keep the momentum going.
Jefferson finally got a bit of a breather, and Foye, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks joined in on the fun in the fourth. Utah went ahead by as many as 13 on a monster Burks jam with 3:26 remaining.
"Our main focus," said Foye, who had 17 points, "was just to stay together, keep working and playing Utah Jazz basketball."
Unfortunately, with this team that has been all over the map lately — both in location and with the way it plays — that style of Jazz basketball included a late-game collapse.
Foye had three turnovers and Burks had another in the final 2:12, and the Pistons fired off a 12-2 game-ending run and gave themselves a chance to extend this one.
"Our main thing we kept saying to each other in the huddle," Foye said, "was, 'Just finish. Let's finish in time. Let's finish.'"
They did, but just barely.
Detroit had an opportunity to send the game into overtime, but DeMarre Carroll was all over Brandon Knight as he put up a 3-pointer from 26 feet out that only traveled about 21 feet.
Clean defense by Carroll?
"Yeah," Corbin said. "Did they call it?"
The Jazz coach couldn't have been more satisfied — or relieved — of how his players bounced back from their Atlanta heartbreaker, then recovered from their miserable 39-point first half and then, well, simply survived to win for an NBA-high 10th time after trailing by double digits.
"This team has shown a lot of resilience all year," Corbin said. "It's a proud group."
The Jazz jumped above .500 again at 20-19 while improving to 9-15 on the road, where they've played more games than anybody else in the league.
Then again, their home schedule ahead of them doesn't look any easier for now. The Jazz return from this 2-1 road trip to take on the NBA champion Miami Heat at ESA on Monday.
NOTES: Jamaal Tinsley was sick and did not play the second half after a quiet six scoreless minutes in the first half. The Jazz fell behind 26-13 after the end of the first period, marking their lowest-scoring first quarter of the season. They only had 15 at Washington in November. Burks finished with 12 points in 25 minutes after only playing seven in Friday's loss.
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