Utah Jazz: Superb defensive effort fuels offensive explosion
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz went on a massive 16-0 run early on, hit 12 of their first 13 shots and had their hottest opening quarter since 2007.
So, how about that smoking-hot offense?
In classic Jerry Sloan fashion, the Hall of Fame coach preferred to focus on his team's defense instead of talking about how the Jazz put on a scoring clinic against the visiting no-namers who might as well call themselves the New Jersey Generals.
"We got after it on the defensive end," Sloan explained, "which gave us a little breathing room the rest of the game."
Yes, he was kindly understating it there after the Jazz pummeled the Nets 116-83 at EnergySolutions Arena.
With the Jazz's defense playing as stingy as ever and the offense rolling better than it has in years in that first quarter, Utah built a double-digit lead midway through the opening period and kept the foot on the gas pedal until its lead reached 35 in the third quarter.
It was that strong opening statement — including a 23-1 run that turned a two-point deficit into a commanding 30-12 advantage — that still resonated after the 25-18 Jazz handed the three-win Nets their 40th loss.
And Sloan wasn't the only one who thought defense deserved the attention. Deron Williams noted that the Jazz had 25 deflections in the first quarter, igniting Utah to its largest rout of the season.
"We were all over the place and active," he said. "We were able to get out and run and get layups."
A lot of layups. The Jazz finished with 70 points inside the paint, and they set the tone with six point-blank shots during that early game-changing run.
"The last five, six games we're playing pretty well," starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko said. "Especially when we start that great defensive stuff, helping each other, we're setting up the tempo, and that's why we start running. That's why we start making easy shots, easy layups, and that's how we won the game."
Mehmet Okur said the Jazz were well aware that the Devin Harris-less Nets played a late one at Golden State on Friday, so they wanted to jump on them early.
"We just wanted to come out there and be active and start from the first second and all 48," Okur said, "so it was a fun game for us."
Especially for him. Okur was one of three Jazz players to score 20 or more — along with Carlos Boozer (22) and Paul Millsap (20) — and the starting center poured in 13 of his 20 points in the first quarter.
Okur did, however, account for one of the Jazz's two missed shots in that quarter. Utah hit 12-of-14 shots in the opening 12 minutes, and that 85.7 field-goal percentage was the best the team has shot in a period in 21/2 years (since shooting 13-for-15 vs. Golden State on Nov. 3, 2007).
Boozer had the other missed shot in the first quarter, which came just 38 seconds into the game. The Jazz then hit a dozen consecutive field goals before Okur's 3-pointer was off-target with 19.9 seconds left in the red-hot period.
The Jazz continued their torrid shooting in the second quarter, and hit 18 of their first 20 shots overall before cooling down to shoot 65.7 percent in the opening half and 61.1 percent for the game.
"We are just playing well," Boozer said. "We are doing what we do, executing on offense, play good on defense, and when we played like we have been the last six or seven we get good results."
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