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Utah Jazz: Guards have tough test with Heat in town

Published: Thursday, March 1 2012 9:19 p.m. MST

Miami's big three Dwyane Wade gets a hug from LeBron James as Chris Bosh looks on after winning as the Utah Jazz are defeated by the Miami Heat 111-98 as they play NBA basketball Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Wednesday's win was several things for the Utah Jazz.

Coach Tyrone Corbin admitted it was a gut-check game, one the team really needed to get after dropping four straight and losing 11 of 14.

Center Al Jefferson believed it was an important step forward.

It did, after all, remind the team that good things happen when players work hard on defense and that they can beat solid teams when they get stellar point guard play, when the wings (led by C.J. Miles' 27-point explosion) complement the usually productive post play and when they get energy from guys like Alec Burks and Jeremy Evans.

Forward Derrick Favors, meanwhile, simply said it was a relief.

"(We can) breathe a little bit more now that we got that win," Favors said, "and hopefully we can keep it up."

With that optimistic outlook in mind, the Jazz might want to take a deep breath.

OK, maybe two.

Their already tough schedule hits the brutal mark beginning Friday night when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat visit EnergySolutions Arena for the teams' only meeting of the season.

"We'll be ready," Favors said. "Just treat it like any other game."

Uh, huh. Good luck with that.

The Jazz will catch a couple of breaks.

Miami played in Portland late Thursday night, and the Heat will be without Chris Bosh, who's temporarily out for personal reasons.

Then again, Bosh's void might be offset by the possible absence of Paul Millsap, depending on how his severely bruised left heel feels by tipoff Friday night. It's also uncertain whether the Jazz will have Raja Bell (strained adductor), Devin Harris (nausea) or Jamaal Tinsley (stomach flu).

The way Harris has played of late — 19 points in limited action before leaving with a stomach ailment in the third quarter Wednesday — the Jazz could really use the point guard's aggressive leadership on offense.

"That's the Devin I used to love to hate because he used to do that on us," Jefferson said, regarding Harris' game against Houston. "That's what he got to do and he did it. Last couple of games he's really been stepping up, attacking the basket. When he's doing it like (that), that's going to really get us going."

This will be the Jazz's last home game in a week and a half.

Utah will fly to Dallas after playing the Heat, and Saturday's game against the Mavericks will kick off a season-high five-game road trip. The Jazz will bounce from Dallas to Cleveland to Charlotte to Philadelphia to Chicago.

Including Friday night's game, the Jazz have six contests in nine nights. The fun continues throughout the month as Utah plays a whopping 19 games. (They might want to send NBA owners a post-lockout thank you note for that bit of March madness.)

"We're getting ready for a tough road stretch coming up," Corbin said. "We've got a tough game here against Miami (tonight). We're getting ready for the road, so we've got to make sure we take care of our home business."

That 104-83 win over Houston provided them with a good blueprint, which included cornerstones of defense, playing physical, outhustling Houston on the boards and in transition, and smoothly executing their offense.

It only remains to be seen if they can build on that impressive outing.

"That's what we got to do to win," Jefferson said. "We've just got to play together like this."

Considering James is playing out of his mind and seeing how Eastern Conference-leading Miami took an eight-game winning streak into Portland, the 16-18 Jazz might have to play even better than they did against Houston to have a shot at getting back-to-back wins for the first time since late January.

"It's important," Favors said of Friday night's game. "We've got to come out there and continue playing the way we were playing, just try to continue to get these wins and try to get back into the playoff race.

"We knew how good we can be," the power forward added. "We just got to keep it up."

Forward Jeremy Evans, no stranger to performing under pressure lately, believes the Jazz can't get star struck with the NBA's glamour guys in the house.

"Like Coach said … no matter who's coming in here, it's our house," Evans said. "We've got to come out and play. They want to win just as much as we do."

Email: jody@desnews.com

Twitter: DJJazzyJody

Blogs: Jazzland.blogs.deseretnews.com

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