Utah Jazz wake up in time: Win streak continues vs. Raptors

Published: Monday, March 9 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

TORONTO — Not long before tipoff Sunday, Deron Williams dozed.

"I was on the taping table laying down," the Jazz point guard said, "and fell asleep 15 minutes before the game.

"So, I was out of it," Williams added.

"I'm used to getting up to practice, but I think it's different when you're at a game. You're just not used to it."

Certainly not when tipoff is at close to 12:30 p.m. in the East, two hours are lost on the previous day's flight to Canada, another is lost on the weekend switch to daylight saving's time and the bodies from Utah feel like it was in the 7 a.m. hour when they rolled to work.

Fortunately for the Jazz, though, a few toss-and-turns and a couple snooze-alarm taps later Williams was awake, alert and leading a rally from eight points down in the fourth quarter of 109-101 victory over Toronto.

"It took us a little while to warm up," Williams, who finished with a team-high 25 points, said after the start of a five-game trip that continues Tuesday at Indiana. "I know it took me a little bit to wake up, and (we) finally got going there in the second half."

Because they did, the 40-23 Jazz have eight straight wins over the Raptors, three straight road victories and — most importantly — 11 consecutive wins overall.

That ties with an 11-gamer in April of 1999 and another 11-gamer in February and March of '98 for the fourth-longest win streak in Jazz history, and it leaves the 2008-09 club within five more victories of breaking the franchise record of 15 from both November and December of '96 and March and April of '97.

And it's all because heavy eyelids finally opened to the sight of what was ripe for the taking — victory over a struggling Raptors club that's now dropped five in a row.

Not that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan left any more impressed than when he arrived.

"This team, in all fairness, how many games have they won? They've won 23 games," Sloan said. "Not to take anything away from them, but if we're going to play at a higher level we've got to beat teams like that every time we play, every time we step out there on the floor."

Utah — which also got double-doubles from center Mehmet Okur (19 points, 11 rebounds) and backup power forward Paul Millsap (18 and 11) in a game that starting power forward Carlos Boozer missed because of a sprained ankle — led by just one point at halftime.

And the Jazz were down, 89-81, with just nine minutes and 41 seconds to go.

But Williams scored nine of his 25 in the final quarter and Andrei Kirilenko scored nine of his 20 in the fourth to drive the comeback.

Williams was especially assertive late, exploiting pick-and-roll mismatches and scoring nine of Utah's final 19 points.

"He did a terrific job," Sloan said. "When they played him straight up, he got on top of the basket. Then whenever they switched . . . he was able to find (Jazz bigs) open shots, and it was easy baskets the way he played the game."

Kirilenko, meanwhile, kickstarted a 16-4 run from eight down with six quick points.

He also gave the Jazz their final go-ahead basket at 94-93, dunking after he stole the tip of a jump that was won by Toronto's Joey Graham and prompted by a mad scramble with multiple players, including Okur and Kirilenko, diving to the floor.

"Actually I was kind of ready for this," Kirilenko said, "because for some reason I was feeling he (Graham) was going to win the jump ball and I tried to read where he was going to throw it."

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