Jazz 83, Bobcats 78
Fourteen seconds is all it took for the Utah Jazz to show they came to play Monday night.
That's when Andrei Kirilenko recorded the first of 10 blocked shots on the night for Utah in a hard-fought 83-78 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
''I thought we were the aggressor tonight for most of the game,'' said Jazz guard Raja Bell, whose rebound and two free throws down the stretch sealed the win. ''That's the way you have to play.''
When it was over, the Jazz had a 49-36 edge on the boards while holding Charlotte to 35.6 percent shooting.
Overall, it was the kind of effort that helped Utah start the season 15-5, rather than the sluggish 13-15 mark since then.
''After the game we had (Sunday night), it felt good to watch them play a little harder,'' Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said of an embarrassing 96-81 loss at Golden State. ''And when you play hard, you always have a chance to win.''
The Jazz had three frontcourt starters record double-doubles, led by Al Jefferson with 21 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Paul Millsap, despite nursing a severely bruised thumb on his shooting hand and dislocating his left little finger in the first quarter Monday, added 14 points and 12 rebounds. Kirilenko added 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting, with 11 rebounds and three blocks.
The Jazz won despite being without star point guard Deron Williams for the third straight game because of a wrist injury and having backup Earl Watson in early foul trouble.
Stephen Jackson led Charlotte with 24 points, while D.J. Augustin added 20 for the Bobcats, who have lost two straight.
The Bobcats trailed by as many as 10 points early in the fourth quarter, but pulled within 76-74 on a 3-pointer by Jackson with 4:19 remaining.
Jefferson bumped Utah's lead back to 79-74 on a layup, but a pair of free throws by Jackson made it a one-possession game again. He made two more free throws to pull Charlotte within one point with 1:58 left.
Millsap grabbed two offensive rebounds off misses before being fouled with 40 seconds left. He made both free throws for an 81-78 Utah lead.
Gerald Wallace missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it for Charlotte and Bell's rebound and subsequent free throws accounted for the final margin.
''We stuck with it,'' Jefferson said. ''They made their run. We made a run and they'd make (another) one. We got some key stops at the end. ... That's the way we got to play. We got to have the energy on defense. We got to help each other.''
The Jazz started the game with an 11-0 run while the Bobcats started 0 for 7.
''It's still the little things,'' Bobcats coach Paul Silas said, particularly agitated at defensive lapses and ill-advised fouls. ''I don't want excuses ... just admit, 'Hey, I messed up coach, and that's it.' I can accept that. But we still, as I've been saying, have a long way to go, but we are getting there.''
The Jazz, meanwhile, are hoping they are getting back to the team that just a few weeks ago was tied atop the Northwest Division and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. After dropping seven of eight entering Monday's game, players knew the same effort wouldn't cut it.
''It starts on the defensive end and we were very physical,'' Jefferson said. ''We didn't let guys get what they wanted to get like (Sunday) night. We made it tough for them.''
Utah opened the second half with another 11-0 run to take a 54-41 lead only to see the Bobcats go on a 13-2 run to pull within 56-54. The Jazz started the fourth quarter with a 10-0 run to take a 72-62 lead.
Again the Bobcats fought back, mostly behind their backcourt duo.
''Stephen Jackson is as tough as anybody at that position,'' said Miles, who added 20 points off the bench for Utah. ''And (Augustin) is playing well this year. He pushes the ball and he's scrappy even with his size. They play hard as a unit.''
The Jazz played harder, and it showed in the locker room afterward.
''You don't feel it when you're on the court, playing hard,'' said Jefferson, who was one of many Jazz players dishing out and absorbing some hard shots. ''But trust me, I'm feeling it right now.''
Notes: The Jazz had 19 turnovers. ''You never want to have turnovers, but there's good turnovers and bad turnovers,'' Bell said. ''Those were good. Guys were trying to get their teammate a better shot.'' ... BYU star guard Jimmer Fredette was in the crowd to watch. ... Jazz reserve C Mehmet Okur missed his 35th game of the season, and the second straight with a lower-back strain. ... Bobcats G Augustin had seven assists and eight rebounds.