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Williams helps Jazz end four-game losing streak

The SportsXchange

SALT LAKE CITY - Mo Williams picked a good time to return to his old form.

The Utah Jazz point guard had his best game since returning from his 32-game absence last week, collecting 20 points and six assists to lead his struggling squad to a 103-90 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

Williams, playing in his fourth game since returning from his January thumb surgery, hit a key 3-pointer with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and added another jumper a minute later to help the Jazz put a short-handed but scrappy Pistons squad away.

The win ended the Jazz's four-game losing streak and moved them into a tie with the Lakers, also 33-31, for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff standings.

Williams made 9 of 14 shots in his first home game since tearing ligaments in his right thumb on Dec. 22. He struggled in three games on the road last week after returning, but played a key role in Utah beating Detroit for the 14th time in 15 outings.

"It just takes some time to get your rhythm back and for the guys to read him because we have changed a tremendous amount since he got hurt; the team has grown in different ways," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I thought he had some great minutes to close the game and made some big shots for us."

Six Pistons reached double figures in scoring, including 15 points apiece for Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko and Rodney Stuckey, but Detroit (23-43) fell for the sixth consecutive game.

"I thought maybe we could have gotten a better contest, but we didn't," Detroit's interim coach, Brian Hill, said after falling to 0-12 against Western Conference teams. "The main thing was I told our guys I don't want to lose, and they don't to lose, but you can walk out of the building feeling a little bit better because of the way we competed tonight."

Al Jefferson had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Marvin Williams and Enes Kanter each scored 14 and combined for 14 rebounds, and Gordon Hayward added 13 points for Utah.

The Jazz had lost seven of eight coming into this one, including a brutal 0-4 Eastern Conference trip last week.

"It was great, especially on a four-game slide, to get it together on our home floor and try to come out with a victory," Jefferson said. "We've got a tough game (in Oklahoma City) Wednesday."

The Jazz jumped to a 51-37 halftime lead and went up by as many as 18 points before the Pistons made it interesting with a late run.

Detroit cut into Utah's big advantage, pulling within 82-77 early in the fourth quarter. The Jazz blew some late leads last week, but responded in crunch time on Monday.

"(The Jazz) definitely play well here," Pistons forward Kyle Singler said. "I thought for the most part we played good for the full game. We could have let down our guard when they made their big lead, but we showed that we wanted to compete and wanted to play."

Hayward ended the Pistons' spurt, hitting a tough turnaround shot. Kanter then added a hook shot, followed by a jumper from an energized Jeremy Evans.

Jerebko interrupted that Utah spree with a three-pointer, but Mo Williams then scored five points in a game-clinching 6-0 run that put the Jazz ahead 94-82 with four minutes remaining.

Evans played the entire fourth quarter -- a rarity for the former NBA dunk champion -- and finished with eight points, seven rebounds and a career-high five assists.

The Jazz outshot the Pistons 51.9 percent to 42.5 percent and won the rebounding battle 47-30. Monroe had a game-high 13 rebounds.

Detroit suffered an early blow when guard Brandon Knight left the game for good at the 8:28 mark of the first quarter. He sprained his left ankle while driving to the basket and being fouled by Jazz guard Randy Foye. Knight didn't put any weight on his left leg while getting helped off the court.

"The only thing I know is that it is not broke," Hill said. "We will have to get more diagnosis than that, but it appears to be a very severe sprain right now."

The Jazz were without starting power forward Paul Millsap (bruised leg) and backup point guard Jamaal Tinsley (illness).

NOTES: Detroit power forward Jason Maxiell was a late scratch due to a sprained ankle. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Jerebko. ... Jazz guard Travis Leslie dressed for the first time with his new team since being signed to a 10-day contract on Sunday. Leslie, the D-League All-Star Game MVP, played 10 games for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011 before being waived. "Great opportunity to come out here and show what I can do," said Leslie, who was drafted 47th overall in 2011. "I'm just going to go out there and do whatever they need me to do."... To make room for Leslie, the Jazz waived Raja Bell. The veteran guard, who was at odds with Corbin, hadn't played for Utah all season. He will be paid his full $3.48 million contract. He can be signed by another team but won't be eligible to participate in the playoffs because he wasn't waived by March 1. ... With the loss, the Pistons matched their second-longest losing streak of the season. They previously lost six games from Dec. 10-19. Detroit's longest skid came during its 0-8 start.
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