PHILADELPHIA Deron Williams was back, but Mehmet Okur was gone, so the Jazz weren't exactly a portrait of perfection, let alone normalcy.
But coach Jerry Sloan's club did look like a team that's finding its focus, as it rallied in the fourth quarter Tuesday night to beat Philadelphia 93-80 and improve to 6-1.
Shooting guard Ronnie Brewer kick-started the comeback, scoring all 16 of his points in the final quarter as the Jazz with Williams, or without did something they might not have a season or two ago.
"It shows so much maturity on our team, because I think in the years past we would have folded," said Brewer, who also had nine rebounds, six assists and four steals in 38 minutes.
"Our team (previously), if we had a lead on somebody and we gave up the lead, we probably would have thrown the towel in and lost this game," Brewer added. "But we stuck with it. We rebounded, we defended and we executed our offense."
They indeed did all that, even with Williams playing for the first time this season after missing six games due to a sprained left ankle sustained in the preseason and with a 19-year-old rookie, Kosta Koufos, starting at center in place of the absent Okur.
Okur left the team Monday to return to his native Turkey, where his father Abdullah has been hospitalized in intensive care.
Koufos wound up logging 21 minutes, scored his first NBA points on an alley-oop dunk delivered by Brewer, finished with six, and pulled down five boards to boot.
But it was the season debut of Williams, who shot just 1-of-8 from the field but dished nine assists in 31 minutes, that had the Jazz feeling particularly good especially after they opened a five-game trip Sunday in New York with a 22-turnover loss to the Knicks.
"He looked good to me," said All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer, whose fourth double-double of the season included a team-high 19 points and game-high 16 rebounds. "First day back, he looked like he usually is, in command. He did a great job of putting us in good sets."
"That's a plus," Brewer added. "I'm not saying (reserve point guards) Ronnie Price or Brevin Knight didn't do a great job, because when (Williams) was out they did a phenomenal job. But he knows this offense. It's his fourth year, and he runs it so well. He knows what plays to go to in crunch time to get big buckets, and that's what I think we've been missing in the first couple game."
Williams suggested the ankle, which he sprained Oct. 18, wasn't exactly at full strength.
In fact, he said that if the Jazz hadn't lost in New York and/or Okur hadn't been out, there was no way he would have played Tuesday.
"It's hard," Williams said. "I can't really explode going to the basket. I settled a lot for jumpers. It's something I just have to get used to. Every day it's gotten a lot stronger and every day I'm getting more courage to try things, to push off a little more. I think I probably can explode if I wanted to, but I'm just a little hesitant."
Still, Williams added, "I'm not going to injure myself. It's more like just pain, so I'm going to play through it."
Much like Brewer played through 0-for-8 shooting through three quarters.
He got back on track in the fourth, helping allow the Jazz who led by 12 at halftime, and by as many as 14 early in the third to rally from 67-63 down at the start of the final period.
"Literally, he took the game over," Boozer said of Brewer, who Sloan suggested is more and more becoming his shooting guard of choice as opposed to backup Kyle Korver when it comes to closing.
"He was getting steals for dunks, hitting jump shots, being aggressive for offense rebounds."
After Andrei Kirilenko opened the last quarter by tipping in the rebound of his own miss, Brewer scored inside and hit the free throw that followed to put the Jazz ahead to stay at 68-67.
He followed that with a 17-foot jumper, and Utah eventually pushed its lead back to double-digits for the last two-plus minutes.26 comments on this story
And that had the Jazz, who continue their trip tonight by closing a back-to-back set at winless Washington, pondering what perhaps awaits."When we get everybody back on the court," Boozer said, "it could be scary."