Most people think of the Utah Jazz as a half-court-kind-of-team, thanks to the years of John Stockton and Karl Malone.
But that half-court stuff was not what coach Jerry Sloan wanted against the Miami Heat Monday night in EnergySolutions Arena. It was, he said, what was getting the Jazz in trouble because it played into Miami's hands.
"That's what you're concerned about playing their team," he said, "because they put you in the half-court game. They've done it every year they've come in and played us, and sometimes we get a little bit anxious to try to do great plays. The bottom line is, you'd better execute against them because they're going to make it tough for you."
The Heat, a team that has won only four games this season and was coming off a 26-point loss at Denver Sunday night, did frustrate the Jazz, now 13-5, much of the night Monday, but when the young Jazzmen finally realized they were taking outside shots and letting Miami do just what it planned to do, they broke out.
Utah led by 11 in the third quarter, was behind by two with 5:51 to play and then did the right things to come away with a 110-101 win to deny Heat coach Pat Riley his 1,200th coaching win in Shaquille O'Neal's 999th career NBA game.
Utah's win broke a seven-game losing streak to the Heat. The Jazz's last win against Miami was Jan. 15, 2004. The win also extended Utah's home-winning streak to eight games.
"Coach reminded before the game that we haven't beaten them in so many tries, and you always want to protect your homecourt," said Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer.
The Jazz are at Sacramento tonight at 8 MST to begin a three-game road swing that includes San Antonio on Friday and a stop in Dallas Saturday night. Their next home game is a week from today with Portland. The Heat's next game is at Portland Thursday.
A Jazz team that already led the NBA in assists, averaging 26.6 a game, had 38 assists on its 42 baskets Monday.
"That's what you should do every game. Pass the ball," said Sloan, who signed a contract extension prior to the game and was pleased to see his team begin passing the ball the way it should after losing that big lead.
"That's what won the ballgame for us when it was all said and done was our ability to pass the ball because we got baskets inside," Sloan said.
"As long as we pass the ball somebody can get open if you do the right thing. We got some layups simply because of that. We jacked the ball up a couple of times and tried to I guess prove we could shoot it out on the perimeter when it wasn't necessary, especially early. You take quick shots on them and they'll walk it right down the floor and try to put you in the same mode again."
Point guard Deron Williams agreed.
"We're at our best when we're executing, hitting open guys, making extra passes. We did a good job of that tonight," he said.
Miami led by as many as eight in the first quarter, pushing the Jazz around underneath, O'Neal backing down Utah's Mehmet Okur for seven first-quarter points, and the Jazz unable to contain Dwyane Wade (10 in the quarter, 26 for the game). The Heat were up one at the half.
"The second half, a lot better energy," observed Williams, who finished with 15 assists and 24 points. "Defensively we were a lot better, we helped each other out a lot more, and we came out and executed a lot better, were able to get some stops down the stretch."
But there was that point where the Heat overcame Utah's 11-point lead by the mid-fourth quarter.
"We got out of the things that were making us successful," said Brewer, blaming himself as much as anyone for "relying on jump shooting and we struggled, me specifically. When we started going back inside and finishing, knocking down free throws, it sparked our defense, and we got easy baskets."
Brewer got an eyeful of Wade running off screens from man-mountains like O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Udonis Haslem.
"It's kind of hard to get over screens and get in front of him, especially at the pace that he's going. He's got a lot of crafty moves," said Brewer, who made a pretty crafty play of his own.
Williams lobbed a pass to him for a sky-high dunk, and he hung on the rim, coming down on Mourning's shoulders with a little over five minutes left to break an 89-89 tie and put the Jazz ahead for good.
"I read D-Will, he put it up there, and I went to go get it, and I finished," Brewer said.
"Unfortunately, it looked like it was kind of a dirty play, like I was trying to taunt Mourning, but if I would have let go of the rim, I would have been on his shoulders, and you're not trying to hurt anybody, so I guess it was just a misunderstanding."
Brewer said it didn't bother him that Mourning swung at his legs a bit.
"Who wouldn't get mad if your leg is on his face a little bit?" he said.
For Utah, Okur led the way, making 10 of his 14 shots including 4-for-5 on threes.
"That's the Memo we're used to seeing," said Williams.Carlos Boozer added 24 points and 15 boards, his 13th double-double of the season.