SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz were getting so tired of hearing about their slow starts — and they had three days between games to hear about it ad nauseam — that they decided to go out and do something about it Wednesday night.
The Jazz jumped on New York early, fell behind for all of about 30 seconds and raced to a 131-125 victory over the Knicks at EnergySolutions Arena.
On the way to their 26th victory of the season against 13 losses to stay in a tie with Oklahoma City atop the Northwest Division standings, the Jazz scored their highest point total of the season while shooting their second-best field goal percentage of 58.4 percent, hitting 45.5 percent from 3-point range and dishing out 31 assists.
It was an entertaining game for the sellout crowd of 19,911 against the highest-scoring team in the NBA. And the Jazz players and coaches all seemed to enjoy it.
"I thought we had a lot of fun and our guys played well," said coach Jerry Sloan. "We passed the ball well and really did a nice job of giving the ball up. I was happy with (31 assists) but I was also happy with 54 points in the paint. I think a lot of the assists came from passes that went directly inside where we had decent shots."
The Jazz finished with seven players in double figures for the first time since last March at Toronto. C.J. Miles scored 24 points off the bench and was matched by Deron Williams, while Al Jefferson added 19, Raja Bell 18, Paul Millsap 17, Andrei Kirilenko 14 and Mehmet Okur 10.
The Knicks were coming off a late game at Portland on Tuesday night, which they won 100-86, two nights after losing a game to the Lakers in Los Angeles. The Jazz decided to out-run the supposedly tired Knicks and it worked..
"We played better today," said Williams. "We had success in the past playing that tempo against them. They run hard on the offensive end and they are a little susceptible on the defensive end running back, so we used that to our advantage today."
New York coach Mike D'Antoni felt his team battled hard to stay with the Jazz most of the night, but just didn't have quite enough to ever catch up.
"We fought as hard as we could fight," he said. "We made a lot of comebacks, but we just didn't have enough. Utah is good and to beat them here we had to have some help. They didn't give us any and they played very well."
The Jazz were hurt by a couple of guys probably no more than a handful people in the arena had ever heard of before Wednesday night — Bill Walker and Shawne Williams. Raise your hand if you know who they are.
Shawne Williams, a fourth-year pro out of Memphis who hadn't scored more than 15 all season, led the Knicks with 25 points, including 13 in a dizzying 21/2-minute flurry late in the third quarter to bring the Knicks back in the game. He sank 7-of-8 from 3-point range, which tied a Jazz record for most 3-pointers allowed in a half.
Walker, a second-year pro out of Kansas State averaging 3.9 points, scored a season-high 23, including 20 in the first half, to almost singlehandedly keep New York in the game. Raymond Felton also scored 23 points.
Amar'e Stoudemire, the NBA's second-leading scorer, finished with 22 points, but played just 27 minutes after getting a stinger in the first quarter.
Sloan said the Jazz were so worried about Stoudemire scoring, they left the two reserve players open too much.
"Stoudemire puts so much pressure on you inside and the people they have out there that can shoot the ball, it makes it very difficult," he said.
For a change, the Jazz got off to a good start, leading from the opening tip and by as much as nine points in the first quarter. Behind the play of Walker, the Knicks came back to briefly take a lead at the end of the quarter, but the Jazz quickly re-took the lead in the second quarter behind their energetic second team and never trailed the rest of the way.
Miles hit a couple of 3-pointers and Okur made his first two baskets after coming back from his latest injury. The lead got as high as 11 before the Knicks cut the lead to eight at the half.
The Jazz seemed to have the game in hand, up by as many as 16 points in the third quarter. But then it was Shawne Williams' turn to shine.
With the Jazz up 86-72, New York's Williams hit a 3-pointer from the left corner and was fouled by Deron Williams and converted the four-point play. Then on the next three New York possessions, Williams sank 3-pointers, the latter two from the same left corner, and just like that it was 91-88.
Kirilenko and Miles hit baskets and Utah's Williams closed out the quarter with four points to put the Jazz up 100-94. Two more buckets by Miles pushed the lead to double digits and, from there, the Knicks never got closer than the final margin of six.
Next up for the Jazz are the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers, who have lost 21 of their last 22 games, including a 55-point beatdown in Los Angeles on Tuesday. The Jazz and Cavs play Friday night (7 p.m.) at EnergySolutions Arena.
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