Jazz hang on down stretch to beat Magic

December 24, 2012, 1:54 AM

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

ORLANDO, Fla. — With one of his veteran floor leaders sidelined for an unknown amount of time, Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin wasn’t exactly sure how his team would respond against Orlando after a pair of lopsided losses.

He got a welcomed surprise.

Paul Millsap scored 18 points, Gordon Hayward added 17 and the Jazz survived a fourth-quarter rally to slip past the Magic 97-93 on Sunday night.

Utah snapped a two-game losing streak with its fifth consecutive regular-season victory over Orlando. The Jazz played without point guard Mo Williams, who is out indefinitely after suffering a sprained right thumb in Saturday’s loss to Miami.

Veteran Jamaal Tinsley played well in his place, scoring 11 points and dishing out four assists.

"It is tough, you don’t wish that on anybody," Tinsley said of Williams. "This is just the nature of the beast. I get another opportunity to go out there and play. We want him to get well and come back soon. This is just the NBA. Somebody goes down and somebody else get the opportunity to play … We just have to figure out a way to win ballgames and do the right thing."

Arron Afflalo had 20 points, and Nik Vucevic added 16 points and 16 rebounds to lead Orlando, which has dropped back-to-back games since losing starting forward Glen Davis to a shoulder injury.

The loss also ended the Magic’s three-game home winning streak.

Williams’ return in unknown after an MRI on Sunday revealed damage to the thumb. He will have it re-evaluated back in Salt Lake City.

Corbin has reason to be optimistic going forward, though.

The Jazz trailed by as many as 16 in the first half against the Magic before closing that gap to just a point at halftime.

They also scored 22 points off 20 turnovers and also got 43 points from their reserves, including 12 from Derrick Favours. All of this came on the second night of a back-to-back and following a pair of losses by a combined 36 points.

"Jamaal and Earl (Watson) came in and did a tremendous job for us," Corbin said. "They pushed the pace, they were getting the ball up the floor, advancing the ball, (and) they did a good job attacking the basket … Those guys are true professionals. They do everything they can to help us win."

Orlando led 73-71 entering the fourth quarter, but the Jazz scored the first seven points of the period and took a 78-73 lead with just over 10 minutes to play.

J.J. Redick hit a fadeaway jumper to put the Magic back on top 87-85 before back-to-back 3′s by Tinsley and Randy Foye nudged the Jazz back in front 91-87 with 2:19 left.

Trailing 92-90, Orlando rebounded a miss by Millsap with less than a minute to play and called a timeout. The Magic ran a set play for Afflalo, but his 12-foot jumper was blocked by Hayward and recovered by the Jazz.

Foye was then fouled and hit a pair of free throws to push the lead back to four.

Redick hit a 3-pointer out of a timeout to cut it back to one, and Millsap hit only 1 of 2 at the free throw line after getting fouled with 10.1 seconds remaining.

Jameer Nelson pushed the ball up court and found Gustavo Ayon underneath, who was immediately fouled by Foye. Ayon missed the first free throw and his intentional miss on the second was rebounded by Tinsley, who hit a pair from the stripe for the final margin.

"Turnovers are always going to hurt," Vucevic said. "You’re missing an offensive chance to score. We had a lot of them."

With Davis sitting for the second straight game since spraining his left shoulder last week, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn started the second-year big man Ayon in his place — his first start of the season. Davis is out indefinitely, with his return dependent on the progress he makes during rehabilitation.

Vaughn had gone with rookie Andrew Nicholson in Davis’ place during the Magic’s loss to Toronto on Friday, but struggled from the field in just 19 minutes of action. Ayon came on as a reserve in that game and posted a double-double.

At 6-foot-10, Ayon gave the Magic a size advantage over the 6-8 Millsap. Ayon finished with nine points and 12 rebounds, but Millsap clearly won the night.

Vaughn said he wasn’t searching for answers of why his team came up short.

"I think it’s pretty simple," Vaughn said. "You outrebound a team, you shoot 50 per cent from the field, make nine 3s, have 20 turnovers for 22 points. The game is really that simple."

Williams said he thinks the point guard spot is in more than capable hands while he’s out.

"One thing about him, he’s got a lot of starter’s minutes under his belt," Williams said of his understudy. "But I thought that the duo of him and Earl … one is not good without the other. I think we need both of those guys to play well and I think they showed that tonight."

Notes: Sunday was the fifth game this season Williams has missed due to injury. He missed one game in early November with a strained right abductor and three games late last month with a sprained right foot. … The Magic teamed with Chase and "Operation Homefront" at halftime to surprise Army Sergeant First Class Paul Hiltibidal and his family with a new, mortgage-free home and a $2,500 check to help provide holiday gifts for their four children. While fighting in Afghanistan, Hiltibidal was injured and retired from the Army earlier this year.

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