Jazz 107, Nuggets 103
Jazz 107, Nuggets 103
Nov. 28, 1996
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Booed off the court at the end of the first half, the Utah Jazz shocked their fans and the Denver Nuggets with what might have been the greatest second-half comeback in NBA history.
The Jazz came back from a 34-point halftime deficit and beat the Nuggets 107-103 on Wednesday night for their eighth straight victory.
``We looked like a deer in a headlight,'' Denver coach Dick Motta said. ``We got into a situation where our elbows just froze up. When you're 34 points ahead, you are basically obligated to go on and win.''
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the NBA's official statisticians, it was the largest halftime deficit overcome since 1980. There are no records of halftime deficits overcome in previous seasons.
``It was a crazy game. I don't think I've ever seen anything crazier,'' Utah point guard John Stockton said.
The Nuggets actually led by 36 late in the first half, but were outscored 71-33 over the last two quarters.
Jeff Hornacek scored 29 points, including five in the final 1:16 to cap the comeback, and Karl Malone added 31 points and 17 rebounds.
``We came in at halftime and we were shell-shocked,'' said Hornacek, who hit a baseline jumper with 1:16 to play to give the Jazz a 100-98 lead, and added a 3-pointer with 44 seconds left to give Utah the lead for good.
``We tried to scramble a little bit with a couple of full-court traps. We knew at halftime we would have to pick up our defense. When we got it down to 20, then 15, the crowd got into it, and Karl started hitting shots in the post, we knew we could come back all the way.''
The Nuggets led 70-36 at halftime and the Delta Center crowd was booing, but the Jazz held the Nuggets to just eight field goals in the second half and 26 percent shooting (8-for-30).
``We certainly got embarrassed in the first half,'' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. ``I felt sorry for the fans, and they should have booed us. I don't have a problem with that.''
The previous largest second-half comeback since 1980 was a 27-point deficit Philadelphia overcame to beat Boston on March 25, 1988.
Bryant Stith led the Nuggets with 31 points, shooting 7-for-9 on 3-pointers. Dale Ellis had 25 points, but only four in the second half.
Utah trailed 74-41 with 9:03 left in the third when the comeback began. The Jazz used a 16-0 run to pull to 74-57. After Ellis hit three of four free throws in two possessions, the Jazz outscored the Nuggets 15-8 through the end of the quarter to make it 85-72.
A 19-6 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Chris Morris, tied it at 91 with 4:38 remaining, and two free throws by Hornacek with 3:02 left made it 95-94, Utah's first lead since the first two minutes of the game.
Hornacek hit his jumper from the right corner with 1:16 left to break a 98-all tie, but Stith answered with a 3 for a 101-100 lead.
Hornacek put Utah ahead for good with a 3-pointer, his second of the game, and after a Denver turnover, Bryon Russell scored on a dunk.
Jeff McInnis drove for a layup with 6.3 seconds remaining, but Stockton put the game out of reach with two free throws with 5.7 seconds left. Brooks Thompson and Ellis both missed on 3-point attempts as time ran out.
``Everything caved in on us,'' Stith said. ``We played a superb first half, but in the second half we just didn't handle the pressure. Stockton always found Hornacek for the wide-open jumper, especially that last one. It just seemed to bury us.''