Utah Jazz: Start is super
Jazz lead by 15 in the first quarter, cruise to win in exhibition opener
Tom Smart, Deseret News
There were issues for concern, especially from coach Jerry Sloan's seat.
Chiefly, defensive effort.
But if the Jazz play throughout their 2009-10 NBA season opener against Denver on Oct. 28 anything like they did early on in a 103-87 preseason-opening victory over the Nuggets on Thursday night, don't worry.
Because Utah got off to a super start at EnergySolutions Arena, leading by as many as 15 in late in the first quarter. And — as much as Sloan may want more, as he always has and always will — things really weren't all that bad.
At least not from point guard Deron Williams' perspective.
From Mehmet Okur's nifty new running hook to C.J. Miles' 5-for-7 field shooting, much was falling the Jazz's way.
Even Williams' ailing right knee — revealed Thursday to be bothering him a him, as evidenced by a brace — wasn't too much trouble.
"Of course there's going to be some things that we can look at and say we didn't do a great job of," Williams said, "but for the most part we didn't turn the ball over (doing so just 12 times). We forced a lot of turnovers (Denver had 27 total). We were pretty active on defense. We helped a lot. We executed pretty well."
There was a second-half span, though, where Sloan seemingly could have killed someone — which is why the defensive theme, as it has been since the start of training camp last season, will linger throughout the preseason and likely well beyond October.
"We had our moments where I thought we played pretty good, but then we went through a stretch there where we weren't able to get up and guard people and made too many mistakes," said Sloan, whose Jazz next play preseason games Tuesday in London vs. Chicago and Wednesday vs. Real Madrid in Madrid. "They came out in the third quarter and really got after us and put some defense on us and kind of got themselves rolling a little bit.
"Someway or another we've got to find a way to defend. If we don't, I'm just gonna play somebody else.
"I can get beat just as easily with a guy working as a guy who thinks he's working hard, and it was probably my mistake last year that we didn't get after guys hard enough," he added.
"Maybe they were confused sometimes on assignments. That's just part of learning what's going on. We all make mistakes."
Sloan did have high praise, though, for power forward Carlos Boozer, who after an offseason of controversial trade talk received a mixed and somewhat ambivalent greeting from an EnergySolutions crowd announced to be 18,114.
"He missed some shots. I thought he was good defensively, though. That's what I was looking for," Sloan said of Boozer, was 2-for-5 and finished with seven points in 20 minutes. "I thought he was good defensively in most situations. There were a couple times he didn't get the assignment right. (But) that (defensive effort) is what we're looking for as much as anything. It's not just about scoring points."
As for Williams, he wound up with 16 and matched Miles for game-high scoring honors.
The knee — apparently sore because he did more leg lifting in the offseason than usual — was OK, he suggested afterward.
"A little tendinitis. It's been bothering me for a couple weeks. Nothing too serious," Williams said. "It (the brace) makes it feel better. It makes it not hurt, so I'll wear it."
NOTES: Miles (hip flexor strain) and AndreiKirilenko (quadriceps strain) both played and started despite missing much of training camp this week, but backup shooting guard KyleKorver (inflamed knee) didn't dress. Miles started at shooting guard and Kirilenko small forward. ... Sloan said Miles, the small forward starter last season, and Kirilenko, who came off the bench in 2008-09, both started so they wouldn't cool down or tighten up following pre-game warmups, and that the fact usual starting shooting guard RonnieBrewer did not open does mean he has lost his starting job. ... Free-agent hopeful PaulHarris (sprained ankle) also sat out.
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