SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—After missing three games with back spasms, Andrei Kirilenko returned to Utah’s lineup Monday with a wide belt under his uniform.
If it was uncomfortable, no one could tell.
Kirilenko scored a season-high 24 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and made two key defensive plays in the game’s final moments, lifting the Jazz to a 105-102 overtime victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.
“It’s so hard to play with a belt when you go a lot of minutes because your ribs start going in and it’s hard to breathe sometimes,” Kirilenko said after playing 44 minutes and helping the Jazz overcome an 18-point deficit.
Mehmet Okur had 23 points and 10 rebounds and made a 3-pointer in overtime to put Utah ahead 102-100. Filling in for Gordan Giricek, who missed the game with Achilles’ tendinitis, Keith McLeod added a career-high 22 points, including the final two of the game on free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining in overtime.
With the Jazz clinging to a 102-101 lead, Kirilenko blocked Pau Gasol’s layup and then was fouled.
“I was waiting for him the whole game. He just kept dunking on us, dunking, dunking, and I just finally got it,” Kirilenko said.
He made one free throw, stole the ball 10 seconds later and dribbled out the clock to thwart the Grizzlies’ final attempt to tie the game.
The Jazz snapped a three-game skid.
“I think we can beat anybody. We just need to stay in the game and not think about mistakes and turnovers. Just keep hustling,” Kirilenko said.
The Jazz are 8-4 when Kirilenko starts and just 2-8 when he doesn’t play.
“He’s playing his best basketball right now, Utah coach Jerry Sloan said of Kirilenko, who missed seven games in November with a sprained ankle.
Gasol scored 32 points and Eddie Jones had 25 as the Grizzlies dropped the opener of a four-game road trip after blowing an 18-point lead in the third quarter.
“To come out and lose it in overtime was tough. It’s hard to swallow,” Jones said. “They hit the boards hard, didn’t turn the ball over as much as we did, and they just kept fighting. That team just kept fighting and you have to take your hat off to them.”
The Jazz collected 20 offensive rebounds and outrebounded Memphis 49-29.
Damon Stoudamire missed his first six field-goal attempts and had just one point before the final minute of regulation. But he then made a 3-pointer, another jumper and two free throws with 6.3 seconds left in regulation.
Kirilenko answered with a deep 3-pointer from the left angle to send the game into overtime.
“In the timeout, Deron (Williams) just told me, ‘Andrei, look at me. I’m going to pass it back,’ so I had a good position for the shot,” Kirilenko said.
The Grizzlies built a 76-58 lead with 3:46 left in the third quarter before the Jazz stormed back. The Grizzlies went 10:15 without a field goal spanning the third and fourth quarters and didn’t score until Jones made two free throws with 6:47 remaining.
By then, the Jazz had scored 20 straight points and taken their first lead 78-76 on Greg Ostertag’s drive to the basket. Neither team led by more than three points the rest of the way.
“Our guys kept thinking, ‘We have a chance. We have a chance.’ That is so huge in this business. I hope we learned something from that tonight,” Sloan said.
In the second quarter, Jones’ reverse dunk capped a 14-2 run to push Memphis to a 50-35 lead. Gasol scored a season-best 20 points in the half and the Grizzlies led 56-45 at the break.
The Jazz, who also got 20 points from reserve Matt Harpring, had dropped four straight games to Memphis.
The Jazz had four players score 20 points in a game for the first time since a 136-133 double-overtime loss to Dallas on February 8, 1996. … Mehmet Okur got a technical in the second quarter after arguing a series of calls. … The Grizzlies made their first 26 free throws. Shane Battier, who had five fouls and just two points, was the only Memphis player who missed a free throw until Gasol missed two in overtime. … Utah played its first home game following a 1-4 road trip, its longest of the season.