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Utah Jazz considering changes to starting lineup

Published: Wednesday, July 29 2015 8:21 p.m. MDT

Charlotte Bobcats' majority owner, Michael Jordan urges his team as it faces the Utah Jazz Saturday in Charlotte.   (Associated Press) Charlotte Bobcats' majority owner, Michael Jordan urges his team as it faces the Utah Jazz Saturday in Charlotte. (Associated Press)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A starting lineup change could be in the offing for the Utah Jazz.

Maybe. Maybe not. But ...

That concept is at least being bandied about in light of the team's ongoing first-half struggles, which have been as prevalent as their late-game successes.

Falling behind by too much and too often nearly bit the Jazz in the loss column again Saturday night. But Utah recovered from a horrible first half, dug out of a 19-point hole and earned a 96-95 win over Charlotte.

The don't-mess-with-success theory might not apply in this case. The Jazz have been shockingly slow to start games, averaging only 36.7 first-half points in their past six outings.

Deron Williams made brief mention of a possible tweak being in order after Friday's win, and Jerry Sloan confirmed that it's on the table before his team played with fire again without getting burned Saturday.

"We start off sluggish. We're not executing as well. I don't know why," Williams said Friday of a scenario that repeated itself Saturday when the Jazz trailed 49-33 at intermission.

"I don't know if we need to shake things up, what it is."

But Williams quickly jumped back into the don't-tinker-with-a-winning-formula camp. But he wants to resolve an obviously lingering problem. The Jazz have only reached the 40-point mark once by halftime (they trailed 45-42 Friday) since scoring 66 against Toronto a week-and-a-half ago.

"As long as we're winning, we can't see a reason to (change)," Williams said. "But we've got to watch film, find out what we're not doing right and try to do it right."

Without getting into specifics, Sloan said the coaching staff is in constant discussion about improvement ideas.

"We talk about it all the time. Should we change? Is there something we need to do to try to enhance our play off the bench?" Sloan said prior to Saturday's tipoff. "(We ask) if that would help if we brought one of the starters off and brought them off the bench. Those are something we talk about, but so far we've kind of bit the bullet and gone ahead."

HALFTIME SPEECH? Sloan didn't deliver a rip-roaring motivational message at halftime Saturday. But there was a strong feeling in the Jazz locker room that they could pull off another comeback victory despite trailing by 16.

No tantrums or chair-throwing or win-one-for-the-Gipper pep talk required.

"They believed that they could come back and win. I felt that when I was in there," Sloan said. "There wasn't a lot of stuff said about it — just keep doing what we've always done, try to do better job executing, try to run the floor better."

He did stress that the Jazz needed to defend better after the quick and athletic Bobcats surged to a big lead.

"They had us in a really tough situation," Sloan said. "It looked like we'd never defended anybody in our life with the stuff that they did, the way that they executed their offense."

When it counted, the Jazz excelled again. Utah shot 61.8 percent to Charlotte's 38.9 percent and outscored the Bobcats 33-22 in the final decisive 12 minutes.

"Finally," Sloan said, "I thought we did a little bit better job in the fourth quarter."

NO THREE-FOR-ALL: Despite their reputation of struggling to defend the outside shot, the Jazz entered Saturday's action ranked second in the league in 3-point-shooting defense.

Charlotte's 8-for-21 outing (38.1 percent) was actually a good night this season for Utah foes, who have only hit 30.2 percent from long range.

The Jazz's key to successfully defending the arc?

"I think," Sloan said, "they've missed 'em."

Seven out of every 10, which is a lot of misses. But Sloan wouldn't take credit for the defensive success.

"I don't think it's our defense," he said. Sloan added self-deprecatingly, "I've never been a good defensive coach at the 3-point line."

Sloan laughed when reminded that something's obviously working.

"That's why," he said, smiling, "I'll take the credit for it now."

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