Utah Jazz: Williams wants team to stay together even more

Published: Tuesday, April 21 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Point guard Deron Williams talks with the media as the Utah Jazz practice in the L.A. Clippers practice facility.  (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Point guard Deron Williams talks with the media as the Utah Jazz practice in the L.A. Clippers practice facility. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

LOS ANGELES — With as few as three games potentially remaining in their 2009 NBA postseason, and the glue holding the Jazz together growing older by the day, point guard Deron Williams put out a plea Monday for internal bonds to remain strong.

"It's tough when you're losing, especially in the playoffs," Williams said with reference to a Jazz team that's dropped eight of its last 10 games, including a 113-100 loss in Sunday's Game 1 of its first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers.

"But it's not the time to break down and start fighting, start bickering between each other," Williams added. "This is the time we've got to stay together and try to fight through things."

The No. 8 seed Jazz's best-of-seven series resumes at 8:30 tonight in the Staples Center, with Game 3 scheduled for Thursday night and a possible series-ending Game 4 set for Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City.

From now through then, keeping his players from growing increasingly flustered may be one of coach Jerry Sloan's biggest challenges.

"That's part of this business," he said. "If you're a professional athlete, and you allow yourself to be frustrated, then you're probably not gonna compete."

TEST OF TIME: Williams logged 45 minutes even Sunday — five-plus more than the next-closest participant, Lakers star Kobe Bryant, and almost six more than next-closest teammate Carlos Boozer.

"I'm ready to go another 45, 48 (tonight), if I've got to," Williams said.

"It would be nice to get some rest," he added, "but at this point of the season there's no need for it."

RAY OF HOPE: The Jazz were buoyed a bit by their play in Sunday's second half.

"I thought we played better, a lot more physical. We made things harder for them," William said. "The first half, they got too many easy baskets, too many wide-open looks, too many layups. We didn't do a good job of helping each other out."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson, meanwhile, was less than thrilled by the 60 points his club yielded after the break — so much so that after the game he scrawled "15? Not like that ..." on a dry-erase board in the Lakers locker room."

Fifteen, of course, is a reference to how many more games the Lakers need to win to notch their 15th NBA title in franchise history.

MOVING ON UP: Bryant's 24 points in Game 1 pushed him past Magic Johnson and into third place on the Lakers' all-time postseason scoring list, behind only leader Jerry West (4,557) and No. 2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (4,070).

Bryant has 3,710 playoff points, which also has him ninth now on the NBA's all-time list.

Sloan, for one, is a fan.

"Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant," the Jazz coach said. "He takes the game and puts it in his hands."

DOUBLE TROUBLE THREAT: Williams' 16 points and personal playoff career-high 17 assists Sunday marked his 13th career double-double in 30 postseason games — including six in seven games against the Lakers.

MISC.: Jazz reserve forward Matt Harpring was bothered Monday by an upset stomach, a side effect of antibiotics he took to combat a nasal infection that caused him to miss practice last Thursday. ... Doom and gloom for the Jazz: Jackson's teams are 41-0 all-time when winning the first game of a series, including 29-0 when winning Game 1 in a best-of-seven. ... The Jazz earned $164,168 to share in playoff bonus money for qualifying as the eighth seed. If they somehow find a way to advance from the first round, another $195,337 in bonus money is earned.

E-MAIL: tbuckley@desnews.com

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