ATLANTA -- As far as unlikely heroes go, this one is up there.
Comeback is Hog spotlight
Utah rookie Ronnie Brewer had scored two points the entire month. His team was down by 21 points to start the fourth quarter, and he was being asked to shut down one of the league's best guards -- not to mention one of his idols -- in order to get the Jazz back in the game.
Amazingly, he did it. Brewer's defense on Atlanta's Joe Johnson fueled Utah's amazing fourth-quarter comeback, helping the Jazz shut down a Hawks offense that spent the first three quarters ravaging them with dribble penetration. The Jazz won, 112-106.
It was doubly sweet for Brewer to do it to his fellow Razorback Johnson, who tormented Utah for 23 points in the first three quarters but mustered only two during the fourth-quarter stretch when Brewer checked him. Amazingly, it was the first time they'd faced off, even though they stay in touch and frequently attended each other's games over the years.
"It was kind of nerve-wracking because growing up, when he was in high school that was all you heard about, and when he was in college that's all you heard about. He's a legend in Little Rock and throughout Arkansas."
Brewer also provided the game's crucial turning point when he jumped into the passing lane for an early fourth-quarter steal. Atlanta's Salim Stoudamire reached out and grabbed him for a clear path foul, igniting a rare "touchdown" by the Jazz -- a seven-point possession. After Brewer made the two free throws, Utah got a 3-pointer plus the foul by Derek Fisher, and then a Carlos Boozer lay-up after rebounding the free-throw miss.
"You have to have a little luck to go with [the comeback] and things fell our way when they fouled us on that," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.
Brewer made the play by duping Atlanta's Speedy Claxton to pass toward his man. "Coach has been preaching to me to be more [active on] help defense and fake at him. Once I faked at [Claxton] I knew he was going to dish it back," said Claxton. "I had long enough arms to play the passing lane and make the steal."
Of course, it took more than Brewer (eight points in 12 minutes) to pull off such a huge comeback. Mehmet Okur (30 points, 10 rebounds) was awesome in the fourth, including a game-clinching three that needed some extra arc to get over the outstretched arms of Atlanta's Josh Smith. And once Brewer helped stem the dribble penetration, Andrei Kirilenko got his tentacles on seemingly every pass as the Hawks made seven fourth-quarter turnovers. Of course, Atlanta provided a little nudge as well, falling into a season-long pattern of settling for jumpers once they get a lead.
It also fit into another season-long pattern -- a Utah win that keeps the Jazz among the West's elite. "We're not going nowhere," said Okur.
And Utah's unlikely here was unquestionably the difference.
"We couldn't keep them in front of us," said Sloan of the first three quarters. "Ronnie Brewer went out there, and he was able to help stay in front of people. To me that was the biggest key."
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Michael Jordan, a part owner with the Bobcats, sat in the front row across from the Charlotte bench during the first half. Seated about 45 feet down the row were former Knicks rivals Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley. There were boos when Jordan was shown on the overhead video board coming out of a second-quarter timeout, but that turned into a standing ovation after a few seconds.
David (NYC): Does Michael Jordan's son have NBA potential or is he just another really good high school player?
Rick Telander: Yeah, I know a lot about the two kids. There's Jeffrey, he's a senior at Loyola High School. His brother Marcus is a sophomore on the same team. Jeffrey is 6-2. Marcus is about 6-3. Marcus is the much better athlete, but Jeff is more even keeled. Marcus is a little wilder, a little more potential, perhaps more risk.
Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki was helped off the court with 2:05 left in the first quarter Wednesday night after spraining his left ankle against the Seattle SuperSonics. Nowitzki was hurt following a missed free throw by teammate Jerry Stackhouse.
Nowitzki was down on the floor for a few minutes before being carried back to the locker room by two teammates.
X-rays on Nowitzki's ankle were negative and the team said he would be re-evaluated when the Mavericks return to Dallas.
-- The Associated Press
David Lee's tip with 0.1 left in 2OT wins it
Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images
Utah rookie Ronnie Brewer rose to the occasion for the Jazz, who improved to 19-7 on the season.
Quote of the Day
-- Andrew Ayres
Allen Iverson leads NBA players in fast-break points over the last 10 seasons with 55 percent more than the runner-up. The top five: Allen Iverson, 3,607; Ray Allen, 2,331; Gary Payton, 2,257; Jason Kidd, 2,161; Kobe Bryant, 2,156. That may be a good fit with the Nuggets. Denver has scored the second-most fast-break points in the league this season. The top three: Warriors, 541; Nuggets, 450; Wizards, 432.
David Thorpe: He's really good -- but needs to improve the consistency of his shot mechanics. His follow through is poor. His balance needs work too.
Jerry (NYC): Interesting Parker question above. Who then, in the league, do you think is the best PG in the league in terms of skills?
Of the nearly 100 players in NBA history with at least 15,000 points, only Bob Cousy and Dolph Schayes have a lower career field goal percentage than the newest Nugget, Allen Iverson.