Jazz ground Hawks for 5th straight win

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 24 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

They hit 70.7 percent from the field in the first half, their best opening-half shooting success 10-plus years. They led by as many as 26, and rolled in the second half. They had five scorers in double figures, two with double-doubles.

They beat Atlanta 108-89 Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena, extended their winning streak to five, improved to 8-1 in February — and did it with all of their 15-man roster intact and healthy for the first time this season, including even starting power forward Carlos Boozer.

The Jazz, in other words, had it together — and, accordingly, have head coach Jerry Sloan fretting over a new problem altogether.

"Just trying to decide who to play and how to play 'em — that's going to be the toughest thing," said Sloan, who got 58 points from his suddenly deep bench, including 16 apiece from Paul Millsap (who also had a game-high 12 rebounds) and Kyle Korver and 15 from Matt Harpring.

"You've got Millsap, Andrei (Kirilenko), Matt and Brevin Knight ... our bench should be good," he added. "Those guys have been through the wars here a little bit, and have had to hold us in there."

That, even after a blowout victory in which starting shooting guard Ronnie Brewer scored a game-high 19 points and starting point guard Deron Williams had a double-double with 15 points and 10 assists, raises the bar for a first unit now comprised of those two, Boozer, small forward C.J. Miles and center Mehmet Okur.

"Hopefully our first group can play," Sloan said after his 34-23 club closed a five-game homestand. "Otherwise, we'll start those guys."

Sloan wasn't thrilled with how some of his starters dragged on defense during an opening half in which Atlanta shot 57.5 percent itself, and how they seemed so consumed by simply scoring in the second.

But beyond that he shouldn't have much to complain about how his opening five, with Boozer and his surgically repaired left knee back for the first time since Nov. 19, got the Jazz going.

Their first-half shooting percentage — coming on 29-of-41 from the field — was the franchise's best before the break since a 74.1-percent showing against Chicago on Feb. 5, 1999.

Utah was up by as many as 10 in the opening quarter, and — thanks to a 3-pointer from Brewer taken from a step over the halfcourt line as time expired in the second quarter — it took a 14-point advantage into halftime.

"Everybody was laughing," said Brewer, who squared up to hit something he frequently makes to win pre- and post-practice HORSE games. "But it felt pretty good when I shot it."

And Sloan actually felt good about how the Jazz opened the third quarter with a 10-2 burst that included a dunk and two jumpers from Miles.

Williams finished a fastbreak at run's end to put the Jazz up by 22 at 76-54, and they hit 26 three times in the fourth quarter, the last when a Harpring jumper made it 104-78.

"Deron (Williams) was on top of his game," Sloan said. "He was alive, really pushed the ball, got on top of the basket. That makes people to have to help after him, and when they do other people have opportunities to get shots."

Brewer made 9-of-13 from the field. Korver broke out of a shooting slum to hit 6-of-9, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. And Harpring converted 6-of-8, including three straight after being on the receiving end of a flagrant-2 foul from Josh Smith that caused him to hit his head on the floor.

Harpring, hot because he was knocked down by a Joe Johnson forearm two possessions earlier, had 11 in the fourth quarter alone and epitomized the sort of play that left Hawks coach Mike Woodson decidedly impressed with the Jazz.

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