Mike Terry, Deseret News
They still aren't whole, and they certainly didn't put together a complete game Wednesday night.
But the Jazz did start strong and finish a 104-91 win over Toronto in like fashion at EnergySolutions Arena, giving them a ninth consecutive win over the Raptors and sending them somewhere tonight where a victory hasn't come since Eric Maynor was 11, John Stockton ran the point and Karl Malone was still delivering.
That's right: San Antonio, where Utah has lost 20 straight and not won since — if Coach Jerry Sloan is to be believed — Richard Nixon was president.
"Forty years," point Deron Williams said Sloan told them the drought's lasted.
"That's about right," Williams added. "If it's not 40, it's close."
Actually, the Jazz's last win in San Antonio came on Feb. 28, 1999 — a little more than 10 years ago, but long ago nonetheless.
Seemingly lasting forever for Utah on Wednesday was a stretch late in the third quarter and early in the fourth during which the 5-7 Raptors got what had been an 18-point Jazz lead after one quarter down to one with a Marco Belinelli fasbreak layup that made it 78-77.
But the shorthanded Jazz — playing without ill center Mehmet Okur, and with just nine healthy players for a third straight game — survived behind Carlos Boozer's eighth double-double of the season, 20 points apiece from Williams and Andrei Kirilenko and another 15 from rookie point Maynor.
"The bottom line is we got stops in the fourth quarter," said Boozer, who finished with a team-high 22 points and season-high 18 rebounds.
"You know, that's the NBA, man: a game of runs," Maynor added. "Like Coach Sloan told us, they were gonna make a run. But it's our home; we've got to withstand that run. And then we came back at 'em."
The 5-6 Jazz buried the Raptors with a 17-2 run following Belinelli's bucket, a stretch that included Hedo Turkoglu's turnover trying to drive on Paul Millsap and Kirilenko's tie-up of center Andrea Bargnani.
"That's what it's gonna take to win," said Maynor, who played all 12 fourth-quarter minutes at the point with Williams next to him at shooting guard.
"If we keep defending like that, offense is gonna take care of itself," he said. "You defend so good, and then you get out in transition and you get easy points — and I think that's what we did."
On the other end during the same decisive run, Kirilenko had a reverse layup off a nifty feed from Maynor, and Williams fed Maynor for a fastbreak layup sparked by Kirilenko's strip of yet another Turkoglu drive.
"I thought we had a great fourth quarter to be able to finish the game off," said Sloan, who called the win "terrific."
"It looked like we were gonna get in trouble a few times there trying to rebound the basketball ... then we started a few fastbreaks without the ball, and that doesn't work very well. But I thought we made some good plays coming down the stretch. We executed our offense pretty well, and made some shots.
"If we just execute, I feel comfortable," Sloan added. "When we just come down and take shots, we're not very good. I think we've proven that. But I think our guys look like they're trying to execute more so they have a chance. If we just take a shot, it's very discouraging to the other four people."
Sloan can only hope now that the Jazz's effort Wednesday encourages more of the same tonight in San Antonio.
"We haven't won there in a long time, especially in that new building," Sloan with reference to the AT&T Center, which actually opened all the way back in 2002. "We've never won in it. And they've been tough for us to play. They've always been terrific."
NOTES: The Jazz were up 61-52 at halftime, marking the fourth time this season they've scored 60 or more by the break. ... Wednesday marked the end of a brutal stretch with six of seven games played at Western Conference sites and one back home for Toronto, which got a game-high 32 points from Chris Bosh. ... Boozer scored 12 of his 22 points in the first quarter. ... Maynor had his first NBA block on Jarrett Jack, and fill-in center Kyrylo Fesenko's five boards in 19 minutes were a season-high. ... Williams also had nine assists while playing for the first time after missing two games to tend to an ill daughter.
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