Mike Terry, Deseret News
With some uncertainty over the starting lineup, a few first-half foibles and more suspense over the outcome than perhaps need be, it seemed only fitting that the Jazz's first game after the break for NBA All-Star Weekend be like so many before it.
Deron Williams, for one, expected nothing less.
After all, the point guard said after Utah utilized its 15th different lineup of an injury-plagued season, "We've dealt with adversity all year."
And Tuesday night provided more of the same, with Andrei Kirilenko returning with success from recent ankle surgery — but Carlos Boozer still sidelined following January knee surgery, and Mehmet Okur the latest to bug out because of illness.
Yet the Jazz did eventually overcome it all and pull away to beat Memphis at Energy?Solutions Arena, winning 117-99 behind a game-high 24 points by small forward C.J. Miles and Williams' 20-point, 15-assist double-double.
The victory — Utah's second straight, and fifth in its last six games — was a much-needed warm-up for what's to come Thursday night, when defending NBA-champion Boston pays its only visit of the season.
It also served as a reminder that if the 31-23 Jazz are to have any hope of hanging with the Celtics, there can be none of the fumble-finger rustiness that plagued them early on Tuesday.
"We were out there for one stretch, it looked like we had boxing gloves on our hands," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, whose club committed eight of its 11 total turnovers before the break.
"The ball was going everywhere, we couldn't catch (it). The ball went off our heads," Sloan added. "That's what caused us problems, and let them get back in the ballgame."
With the Jazz going dry on nine straight possessions late in the opening quarter and early in the second, Memphis managed to erase a 10-point deficit and head into the second half tied at 56.
The 15-38 Grizzlies even led briefly early in the third, when a Hakim Warrick dunk fed by Rudy Gay made it 64-63 Memphis. Jarron Collins' tip of his own miss put Utah ahead to stay at 65-64 with about nine-and-a-half minutes left in the third, and a Paul Millsap three-point play the old-fashioned way boosted Utah's lead back to 10 before the quarter was done.
"It took us about a half (to get going)," said Collins, who got his second start of the season only after the Jazz learned shortly before the game that flu-like symptoms would keep Okur at home. "We struggled on the defensive end in the first half, and allowed them to shoot over 50 percent.
"But we picked up the intensity in the second half and got great production from everybody," Collins added. "Hopefully we get Memo back for Thursday, because we have a really big game against the champs."
As for Tuesday, though, it was still a four-point game, 90-86, early in the fourth before the Jazz finally pulled away with an 11-0 run that featured a Kirilenko jumper, a Kyle Korver 3-pointer assisted by Williams, a Williams-fed reverse layup by Kirilenko, Kirilenko's fastbreak dunk prompted by his own steal and Miles' tip-in of his own miss.
"They're a composed team," Grizzlies guard Kyle Lowry said. "They ran things they wanted to run (in the final quarter), and we missed some shots, and we let their run get too far out."
Williams' streak of straight games with more than 30 points ended at five, but his count of double-doubles this season hit a team-high 24 (tied with Millsap) as he orchestrated the decisive run.
Ronnie Brewer contributed another 19 points, Millsap had 18 and Kirilenko added another 14 off the bench for a Jazz team that seemed that seemed to be quite cognizant of how that composure will have to be much more consistent if they are to enjoy such good fortune against the Celtics.
"Believe me," Kirilenko said, "next game will be different."
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