NEW ORLEANS — Every time the NBA team that used to call the Big Easy home returns, a small fan club has a special cheer for the visitors with the familiar-sounding name.
"There ain't no Jazz in Utah!" sing the Bee Zanies. "There ain't no Jazz in Utah!"
For the past couple of seasons, there ain't been no wins in New Orleans for Utah, either.
That finally changed Wednesday night, when this traveling Jazz band silenced out the good-natured taunts (for now) and muted the New Orleans Hornets' offense in a 96-84 victory.
Easier written than done for the Jazz.
Despite the Hornets' overall struggles, Utah had lost the last three times it played in New Orleans Arena and four of six overall, including an 88-86 road-opening setback on Nov. 2. The Jazz only had two road wins in nine outings coming into this one, too.
So yes, the Jazz were feeling relieved after improving to 9-7 with their fifth win in six games.
"It was a huge road win for us and it's difficult for us in this building for whatever reason. We struggle every time we come down," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We knew it was going to be a tough battle for us here. Fortunate enough, we didn't play our best basketball, but we were able to get a win."
Good basketball from either team was harder to find than a full row of fans at this sparsely attended game (generously reported attendance of 10,693).
The Jazz only scored 20 points in the first quarter and 21 in the second quarter, and the Hornets went 7 minutes and 47 seconds without scoring in a brutal stretch of the opening half.
Even so, Utah only managed to take a two-point lead into the locker room.
The Jazz snapped out of their funk in a big way in the third quarter, outscoring the Hornets 31-17 to seize control.
New Orleans trimmed Utah's early fourth-quarter lead of 17 points down to seven a couple of times midway through the final period, but Gordon Hayward and Al Jefferson hit key buckets to fend off the home team's rally and enthusiastic fan club.
"We got the win. That's all that matters to me," Jefferson said. "It was kind of one of those up-and-down games. They made a run, but we just had to finish it out, and we did a great job."
Big Al finished with a game-high 19 points on 9-for-16 shooting. He also had seven rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots.
Paul Millsap snapped out of his five-game slump with 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and even played in the fourth quarter after watching the end of Jazz wins Friday and Monday.
Hayward finished strong to get going again, scoring 13 of his 15 points off the bench in the fourth quarter.
Marvin Williams was also having a strong all-around game before leaving late in the third quarter with concussion symptoms. He lost his footing during a play and smacked his hip and head hard on the court.
Williams grasped his head and stayed on the hardwood for a moment before being escorted off the court by Jazz trainer Gary Briggs.
"I heard it from all the way down on the bench. His head seemed to me like it hit the ground pretty hard," Hayward said. "It looked pretty painful."
Williams scored 16 points, including a ferocious dunk and a pair of 3-pointers, before exiting.
"It was a tough fall," Corbin said. "He was having a good game for us. It was tough to see him go down, especially go down hurt. But the guys picked it up, and hopefully he'll be OK to go on Friday night."
Williams' status will be determined by the results of ongoing concussion tests.
The Hornets (4-10) got 18 points apiece from Robin Lopez and Greivis Vasquez, but NBA-leading 3-point-shooter Ryan Anderson only connected on 1 of 6 from beyond the arc and New Orleans shot just 42.5 percent.
Corbin thought his team clearly played more energetic in the second half after a ho-hum start. Utah outscored New Orleans 55-45 in the final two quarters.
"I thought that we were more aggressive in our cuts on the offensive end. Our defense picked it up and got our hands on a lot of balls," said Corbin, whose team had 11 steals. "We were able to get some easy baskets."
The Jazz also attacked the hoop, resulting in 17 more free throws (28 for 38) than the Hornets (17 for 21).
"It's good for us to start off the road trip like this. We need to win games like these," Hayward said. "It's hard to win games on the road, but we've got to be able to take these. We're going to have a tough one going into Oklahoma City."
That's true. But at least Friday they won't hear any "There ain't no Thunder in Utah!" chants.
NOTES: Starting point guard Mo Williams dressed but didn't play for the third game in a row due to a sprained right forefoot. Before tipoff, Corbin jokingly said he was going to tell Williams, "If I call your name, don't stand up. Just sit there and look at me funny." The Jazz won despite getting zero points from their point guards. Backup Earl Watson dished out eight assists and didn’t take a shot while fill-in starter Jamaal Tinsley had five dimes and went 0 for 1. No. 1 pick Anthony Davis (left ankle) did not play.
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