Utah's 97-96 win over San Antonio on Monday night was only a regular-season game but it felt like much more to the Jazz, who had lost nine in a row and hadn't beaten the Spurs in nearly five years.
"Tonight they deserve a reward because they stayed with it for the full 48 minutes," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
Utah hadn't won a game since beating Philadelphia 103-101 on Dec. 20. The nine-game losing streak was the team's longest since 1983 and ended against the Spurs, of all teams. The Jazz had lost 18 straight to San Antonio, dating to a win in Utah on Feb. 6, 2000.
Okur finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds and battled San Antonio's Tim Duncan much of the night. Duncan finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds, but Okur got free at the end and hit the shot of the night.
Okur pulled down the ball after Keith McLeod missed a layup and banked it in as time expired and the home fans roared.
"I was just trying to get to the basket," said McLeod, who scored 18. "After I missed the shot, I'm still looking and I see Memo come out of nowhere and put it back in."
The shot was reviewed and upheld as streamers fell from the rafters and the Jazz players and fans celebrated the end of both losing streaks.
"I made the last shot and we had a nine-game losing streak. It was huge for us," Okur said.
San Antonio never led by more than three and couldn't hang on to several one-point leads down the stretch.
San Antonio hurt itself from the free-throw line, going just 24-for-33, and left room for Utah to rally.
"I thought they played well the entire game," Duncan said. "We fought back into it, gave ourselves and opportunity but they never let up."
Okur slammed down a miss by Boozer to put Utah up 95-94, but the lead went right back to San Antonio when Duncan put back an offensive rebound to make it 96-95.
Okur then missed badly on a 3-point attempt with about 30 seconds left but he atoned at the other end with a defensive rebound off a miss by Ginobili, who drove through the lane and appeared to be fouled hard but there was no call.
The Jazz called timeout with 7.4 seconds left for the last-second attempt. McLeod drove for a layup attempt that bounced off the rim, but there was enough time for Okur to grab the rebound and get off the winning shot.
Although the game was not a sellout, the 18,325 fans roared as the Jazz mobbed Okur in celebration.
"I'm happy for them, in a strange sort of way," said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, who waved and nodded to Sloan as he left the court.
Jazz forward Matt Harpring and guard Raja Bell both had sore right knees and did not dress. ... McLeod's 18 points was a
career high. ... Duncan had his 27th double-double of the season. ... Sloan was restrained by assistant Phil Johnson after Kirk Snyder was called for a flagrant foul in the first quarter. Sloan did not receive a technical after pounding the scorer's table right in front of referee Ron Olesiak after he made the call.
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