Michael Brandy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Maybe it was because they got to sleep in Wednesday, their usual morning shootaround canceled because of the snowstorm with no sizzle.
Perhaps it's because of the inspiration their bench players have provided lately.
Or it could be because they felt guilty knowing what they'd be eating Thursday, and felt obliged to burn some extra calories before feasting on traditional Thanksgiving favorites.
Whatever the case, the Jazz — and especially their starters — offered up more energy in a win Wednesday night over the New Orleans Hornets than they've exhibited all season.
And they're counting on some carryover tonight, when the Los Angeles Lakers — the same team that has eliminated them from each of the past three NBA postseasons — visit EnergySolutions Arena for the first time this season.
"It shows what we can do when we play hard," swingman C.J. Miles said of the effort against a New Orleans team that came to Utah with an 11-2 record, "and we are going to have to do it (tonight)."
"We hope it does (bleed into tonight)," power forward Paul Millsap added when asked about the Jazz's performance Wednesday. "We know what we have to do to win (tonight's) game. That (L.A.) is a good ball team. We know we will have to execute, and play solid defense to win."
Jazz players aren't alone in hoping that turkey and all the trimmings are a bridge from the showing against Chris Paul's Hornets to tonight's against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
"We hope we can carry it out again," said coach Jerry Sloan, whose 11-5 team has won three straight games and nine of its last 11. "You have to play with energy if you're gonna get anything done.
"I think our first group may have seen the second group, when they played with energy. They didn't always have success every time, but it seemed like something good was happening.
"Most importantly, they tried to help each other defensively," Sloan added. "The first group has a tendency to let guys get away, and get by them, and then expect help. We'll, you've got to help yourself first before you start yelling for help."
And you've got to make changes, the thinking in Utah went last offseason, before having an improved chance against the two-time defending NBA-champion Lakers.
The Jazz did that by trading for big man Al Jefferson after two-time All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer left for Chicago last July, and later in the offseason by signing veteran Francisco Elson for experience off the bench.
"I know it's gonna be an exciting game for both teams, plus the fans," said Jefferson, who is averaging 16.7 points and a team co-leading 8.9 rebounds per game. "I really think that we're a lot bigger this year, with a great confidence boost (Wednesday)."
No matter how well the Jazz may have played against the Hornets, though, it can't erase the memory of being swept by the Lakers last postseason.
Bryant averaged 32.0 points over four games — with at least 30 points in all four games — and big man Pau Gasol 23.5 in the best-of-seven 2010 series.
And at 13-2 with five straight wins, L.A. is off to a terrific start so far this season.
That in mind, it's no wonder Sloan gives the Lakers as much respect as he does.
"They're so much longer and bigger than we are," the Jazz coach said.
"That's where we have a lot of trouble trying to play with them," he added. "And of course I don't think anybody has an answer for Kobe Bryant, if he's on top of his game. That's what you have to deal with."
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