SALT LAKE CITY — Al Jefferson said the Utah Jazz were indebted to their previously let-down fans coming into Wednesday's home game.
"We let them down that first game," the new big man in town said, referring to last Thursday's blowout loss to Phoenix. "We owe them big-time."
The Jazz, playing at EnergySolutions Arena for the second time this season, more than made good on their IOU with a dominating performance in a 125-108 thrashing of the Toronto Raptors.
"They deserve it, man. We cheated (fans) the first game at home," Jefferson said. "They didn't deserve that, so we (wanted) to come and give them a nice show."
Nice was an understatement for how the Jazz started and finished off this show — not to mention the multiple stat-sheet-filling stellar performances.
Jefferson had his best-scoring game in a Jazz uniform with 27 points. Paul Millsap had yet another strong offensive outing, scoring 21 points on a sizzling 10-for-16 shooting.
And Deron Williams flirted with his first-ever triple-double, racking up 22 points, 14 assists and a team-high eight rebounds.
As a much-needed bonus, C.J. Miles (19 points) and Ronnie Price (11 points) both added sparks off the bench.
"Everyone (on the team) knew how everyone in Salt Lake felt after the first two (games) and there were some worries out there," said Jazz starting guard Raja Bell, referring to the back-to-back double-digit setbacks last week. "But we definitely wanted to come home and show the fans what we were capable of, and anytime you're in your building you want to play well."
It didn't take long for that to happen.
Continuing right off where they ended Sunday in a rout of division rival Oklahoma City, the Jazz jumped all over the Raptors from early on.
Center Andrea Bargnani gave Toronto a 2-0 lead, but it was all payback-the-fans/pour-it-on-the-Raptors time for the Jazz over the next hour after that.
The exquisitely executing Jazz went on a 15-0 tear, built a lead to as many as 23 points and returned to the bench at the end of the first quarter with a whopping 41 points on 68-percent shooting.
All of which, of course, had them talking about their first-quarter defense — not their sparkling offense — after their second straight blowout victory and their 11th straight win over the Raptors.
"I just think it's defense," Jefferson said, referring to Utah's hot start. "We get stops, we run, we get easy buckets."
Utah, playing with only 10 players in uniform, maintained that advantage for a 66-47 halftime lead — 24 minutes of play that elicited praise from their Hall of Fame mentor.
"The first half of the basketball game was really exciting for me," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "I thought we did a great job executing our offense and getting baskets that were worthwhile."
He was mostly proud of that energetic D, which had six steals and forced Toronto into 10 first-half turnovers (20 overall) and 40-percent shooting before halftime.
"I thought it was one of the better defensive first halves I have seen us play," Sloan said. "So it felt good to see us do that."
Sloan credited Toronto (1-3) for the furious comeback it made in the third quarter, when the feisty Raptors clawed back to within two points at 86-84.
But that Toronto rally was stymied, and quickly in 1.8 seconds at the end of the third quarter.
First, Williams hit a pair of free throws with 2.8 seconds remaining. Then Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan stepped out of bounds while attempting a three-quarter-court shot at the 1.6-second mark.
The Jazz then finished the quarter with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer after Miles received his inbounds pass back from Williams, only to bank in a 30-footer.
Miles, playing his second consecutive strong game, opened the fourth with another 3-pointer and the 2-2 Jazz used a 9-0 run spanning the quarters to regain momentum and make good on the IOU.
"Things are getting better and we've got two wins from them," Williams said. "We're getting out and running more, pushing the ball and getting easy looks. A lot of it just comes from energy and intensity."12 comments on this story
Even though only 17,802 fans were in attendance, it was much appreciated.
The lack of boos and amount of cheers was testament of that.