Mike Terry, Deseret News
At 1-11, their woeful record in the second game of back-to-back sets this season is well-chronicled and will be magnified tonight, when the Jazz visit Sacramento.
On Thursday night at EnergySolutions Arena, though, it was the Dallas Mavericks and All-Star Dirk Nowitzki who appeared to be the weary ones.
The Jazz beat Dallas 115-87 in a late-starting game on TNT, in large part because of the 34-point, 12-assist, five-rebound performance from point guard Deron Williams and as well because of how they took advantage of a tired-looking Mavs team that beat Portland on Wednesday night in Texas.
Yet something else got the most credit in Jerry Sloan's book.
"We pushed the ball. But we also tried to get after them a little bit more on the defensive end," the Jazz coach said. "I thought we got up under 'em, and got after them underneath a little bit more. That gives you opportunities to get in the open floor, and when Deron was in the open floor he did a terrific job finding people and making shots himself and getting on top of the basket.
"All those things have a tendency to help," added Sloan, who also got 20 points from Kyle Korver, 17 from Ronnie Brewer and double-doubles by both Mehmet Okur (16 points, 13 rebounds) and Paul Millsap (14 points, 10 boards). "But if you try to go possession by possession with them and not play any defense, it gives them life."
The victory, Utah's second straight and third in its last four games, had to be satisfying in at least two other regards.
One is that it lifted the 28-22 Jazz past Phoenix and into eighth place in the NBA's Western Conference standings meaning Utah not only moves into a playoff position, but also is now within three games of fourth-place Portland.
The Jazz also ended Dallas' four-game win streak and picked up a full game on the Mavs, who along with both New Orleans and Houston came into the night 2 1/2 up on Utah.
The other is that it was done with yet another injury-altered lineup.
Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer (arthroscopic knee surgery) missed his 38th straight game and small forward Andrei Kirilenko (ankle surgery) missed his eighth in a row.
Usual Jazz starting small forward C.J. Miles also didn't play because of a bout with bronchitis, so backup shooting guard Korver opened and usual starting 2 Brewer slid to the 3.
But Williams, who missed Monday's victory over Charlotte because of a deep thigh bruise and related knee swelling, did go.
With Williams scoring 14 of his game-high 34 in the opening half, the Jazz led 57-47 at the break.
And with Millsap, Jarron Collins and Matt Harpring all taking turns on him on the other end, Nowitzki hit just 5-for-13 from the field in those first two periods.
He finished with just 14 points.
But what especially hurt the Mavs early on was the shooting of small forward Josh Howard, who finished with a team-high 18 points but who opened just 1-for-10.
Utah extended its advantage to 73-54 when Williams delivered a long, fastbreak pass to Millsap for an alley-oop dunk with 6 minutes and 25 seconds remaining in the third, and the Jazz coasted from there.
Williams hit three free throws stemming from a flagrant-1 foul and a technical on Howard with 2.3 seconds left in the quarter part of a personal 16-point, five-assist period and Utah went into the fourth up 28 at 94-66.
Rather than satisfy Sloan, though, that only stirred him.
"We need to win every night we step out there. I haven't lost sight of the fact we need to win," he said. "But we're not gonna get 'em unless we play hard like this all the time. I guess my next question ... would be, 'Where has it been?'"NOTES: Jazz backup point guard Brevin Knight sustained an inflamed left thumb and didn't return in the second half. His status for tonight is uncertain. ... Miles' absence was his fourth this season, including three games missed last month with a sprained ankle. ... Neither Boozer nor Kirilenko traveled with the team for its two-game road trip to Sacramento and Golden State, but Miles did. ... The Jazz are now 3-0 on major national cable TV this season, including 2-0 on TNT.
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