AUBURN HILLS, Mich, March 15 (Ticker) --
Without their best player, the Utah Jazz edged the Detroit Pistons with clutch play from a pair of rookies and a wily veteran.
Rookies Andrei Kirilenko
and Jarron Collins
combined for 43 points in place of flu-ridden Karl Malone
and John Stockton
, added 14 points and 10 assists as the Jazz snapped a season-high four-game losing streak with a 100-97 triumph over the Pistons.
Kirilenko made 11-of-15 shots for a season-high 27 points, adding nine rebounds. Collins collected 16 points and nine boards for the Jazz, who won their third straight visit to The Palace.
NBA TV highlights from|
Andrei Kirilenko had a huge game in Karl Malone's absence.
"Everybody knew we had to step it up with Karl not out there," Collins said. "The guy's a Hall of Famer and our best player. It was not like one person could go out and replace him. Everyone has to pick it up."
It was Malone's first missed game this season. He entered the campaign having played in 99.5 percent of 1,280 possible career games. He had missed three games due to injury and four to suspensions.
After Jon Barry
hit a jumper and a 3-pointer to give Detroit a 96-90 lead with 1:58 remaining, John Starks
countered with a shot from the arc and Stockton -- who turns 40 later this month -- hit a pull-up 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game with 79 seconds left.
Stockton hit a floater in the lane to give Utah the lead for good, 88-86, with 40 seconds to go. Detroit's Ben Wallace
and Utah's Donyell Marshall
each hit 1-of-2 free throws before Stockton made only 1-of-2 at the line to extend the advantage to 100-97 with 11 seconds remaining. Jerry Stackhouse
tried a 3-pointer from the top of the key, but Kirilenko got a piece of the ball. Detroit's Damon Jones
snagged the rebound and raced to the right corner, but his off-balance attempt at the buzzer did not fall.
"To get up six and give up two threes in a row is really heartbreaking," Detroit coach Rick Carlisle said. "It just kind of typified our night. We were just too loose on the defensive end, and Utah is a precision team. They’re going to take advantage of the slightest mistake."
Even without Malone, a force in the low blocks, Utah outscored Detroit in the paint, 52-22.
"We ran the floor and seemed to get better baskets," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We had 52 points inside because we ran the floor and passed the ball a lot better. (Kirilenko) was awfully quick to where he was going. John made a couple of great passes that gave him a couple of easy baskets."
Utah led at halftime, 49-40, and scored the first three points of the third quarter for its biggest advantage. Detroit got within 75-70 entering the fourth quarter.
Stackhouse scored 24 points and Clifford Robinson
19 for Detroit, which fell into a first-place tie with Milwaukee atop the Central Division.
"It’s real disappointing," Stackhouse said. "We had a sense that we had the game. They made some big shots. We just made some mental mistakes and let them back in the game. We know we’re better than that. Hopefully we’ll be able to bounce back from it."
Marshall added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz, who moved a game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"It is very hard to play without Karl because he’s our leader," Kirilenko said. "We have to stay focused without him. It was a tough game and we really needed to win it. I want to play in the playoffs. I’ve never played in the playoffs, not even in Russia."