Utah Jazz: Much-improved effort leads to bounce-back win over New Orleans
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — After their team's massive meltdown at EnergySolutions Arena on Monday, many Utah Jazz fans were probably hoping for a 45-point bounce-back win.
The non-greedy Utah faithful might've even accepted a 25-point loss, which would've been considered a close call compared to the 125-80 drubbing the Jazz suffered against the Houston Rockets two nights earlier.
And the Jazz?
They'll happily settle for the 104-99 victory they eked out against the New Orleans Hornets in front of a sparse and anxious crowd of 17,490 Wednesday night.
"Absolutely. Absolutely," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We got the result we were looking for."
Though it was just a five-point victory over a 15-win Hornets team, it got Utah back on the right track after that devastating detour during which the Jazz suffered their worst-ever home loss and the fifth-largest margin of defeat in franchise history.
"We knew that the next game was going to be tough," Jazz forward Paul Millsap said. "We started off slow, but we got ourselves going and ended up winning the game, but it feels good."
That was apparent from the vastly improved mood in the arena — where Utah is 16-5 and has won seven of its last eight games.
It was also evident in the locker room. When media entered the Jazz players' dressing area following the game, the vibe was downright chipper.
Injured guard Mo Williams briefly stopped reporters to jokingly hold a press conference announcing that Paul Millsap had joined Twitter.
In his locker, Millsap smiled about that, teased Al Jefferson while also, no doubt, feeling good about his team-leading 25-point, 10-rebound performance.
Big Al and Randy Foye razzed a derby-cap-sporting Enes Kanter for his outfit — a nightly ritual after victories, it seems.
And Jazz players were simply relieved to be answering questions about their 10th win in January instead of about one of the most embarrassing losses in their organization's 39 seasons.
"I thought it was real pretty," said Jefferson of the win after scoring 22 points and grabbing five rebounds. "It's a win, especially compared to Monday night."
Jefferson scored six points in the final four minutes, including a jumper moments after a 14-foot Millsap make with 1:16 remaining. Those back-to-back buckets helped the Jazz get some breathing room after the Hornets whittled Utah's 10-point, second-half lead down to one with just over two minutes remaining.
Randy Foye hit three free throws in the final 18 seconds and Millsap scored the final two of his 19 second-half points from the charity stripe with 7.7 remaining to clinch the much-needed win.
Accused of having no heart by some, the Jazz were determined to show they still have a heartbeat in their chests.
At least they did that after falling behind 24-12 in the first quarter, that is.
"It's tough to let a game like that go. You have to move on and put one foot ahead of the other and keep pushing," Millsap said. "We let it go and we came out tonight. It seemed like it was getting ready to go that way again, but we got it going and won the game."
Corbin repeatedly insisted that Monday's loss only counted as one defeat despite the humongous disparity, but it was obvious that his team carried over some struggles from their previous woeful outing when this one began.
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