SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—The undefeated Utah Jazz looked to their smallest and oldest player to give them a spark when the game looked out of hand.
“I just had to go out there and pick up the pace a little bit and defend better,” said the 5-foot-10 Knight, who had six points and six assists. “We got out on the break and I tried to bring a spark to the team.”
Mehmut Okur scored 22 points and Carlos Boozer added 20—including four in the final 30 seconds—for the Jazz.
“Guys are stepping up and playing great, no matter who happens to be on the floor,” Boozer said. “We did a great job of staying in there and hanging with it. We fought back, got the lead and won the game.”
Brandon Roy, who had 18 points for Portland, sliced Utah’s lead to one at 97-96 on a drive down the lane in the final minute. Andrei Kirilenko found Boozer for a layup with 29.2 seconds left to reclaim the three-point advantage.
“It was a winnable game and we let it slip,” Roy said. “Tonight was another case where we panicked and they made a run. Give them credit.”
Roy quickly drove to the basket again and flipped the ball in the corner to Rudy Fernandez. The Spanish sharpshooter, who scored 14 points, missed off the front rim. Boozer and Paul Millsap each added a pair of free throws for the final margin.
Playing without starting point guard Deron Williams, the Jazz needed Knight. In a critical span bridging the third and fourth quarters, the 32-year-old guard — who turns 33 on Saturday—had three steals that led to dunks. The last slam by Millsap cut it to 78-76, and Knight gave the Jazz their first lead of the second half, 82-80, on a baseline jumper with 7:26 to play.
Williams has missed all four games this season because of a sprained left ankle. The point guard warmed up on the court before the game and hopes to play on Friday against Oklahoma City.
Jerry Sloan reached 999 victories as Utah’s coach, the most ever by a coach with one NBA team. Sloan is the longest tenured coach in professional sports and will look to be the first coach to win 1,000 games with one team.
“The NBA is for the players,” Sloan said. “I’ve been lucky to be a coach. (Reaching 1,000) is not something that I will do cartwheels over.”
LaMarcus Aldridge also had 18 points for Portland.
Portland rookie forward Nicolas Batum made his first start, replacing Travis Outlaw in the starting lineup … Portland’s Greg Oden (right foot), Martell Webster (left foot) and Raef LaFrentz (right shoulder) missed the game.