LOS ANGELES An early afternoon start didn't hurt. Picking on an opponent that is dead last in the Pacific Division had to help.
But what really made the difference the Jazz opened the second half of their 2007-08 NBA season by breaking a four-game road losing streak Monday is that they were willing to earn it the old-fashioned way, jumping on the Los Angeles Clippers from the get-go and sustaining their effort throughout a 109-93 Martin Luther King Jr. Day victory at Staples Center.
So who cares if it was a yawner?
Certainly not point guard Deron Williams, who seemed to enjoy going straight from breakfast to business.
"I know I was awake," said Williams, who scored a team-high 18 points and dished a game-high 13 assists for his 20th double-double of the season.
"We got steals (15, matching their season-high), deflections and just played a lot better than we have in the past," he said. "I tried to set the tempo early, as soon as we came out, just to get guys out running, get guys loose early."
Monday's was the second blowout of the 12-25 Clippers in as many outings for the 24-18 Jazz, who also had an easy time Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
What made this one special, though, is that it came on the road where Utah was just 6-15 in the season's first half, and where the Jazz had won only once since beating Philadelphia way back on Nov. 28.
"It was great for us," said power forward Carlos Boozer, whose 12 points and 12 rebounds marked his 29th double-double this season third-best in the NBA behind only Orlando's Dwight Howard and Minnesota's Al Jefferson.
"We finally brought the same defensive intensity that we had at home on the road," Boozer said, "and that's why we won the game."
Or at least it was one reason.
There was a multitude of others, including a balanced offensive attack for a second straight game against the Clippers.
Utah again had seven scorers in double figures and this time got 51 points from its bench, including a season-high 17 points with 7-of-10 field shooting from forward Matt Harpring.
"That was good," said Harpring, who restrictions on his playing time, because of a surgically repaired right knee, lifted for the first time this season logged a season-high 27 minutes.
"We're obviously a better team when we're balanced like that, and the last couple games we've been like that," Harpring said. "Hopefully we can continue to do that, because teams are so much harder to guard when you've got five, six, seven guys that can score. It's much easier to guard when you're just looking at two guys doing all the work."
Another critical factor: points in the paint.
The Jazz outscored the Clippers 66-40 down low en route to shooting 57 percent 45-of-79 from the field.
Never was that more evident than late in the third quarter, after the Clippers whittled what had been a 14-point Jazz lead to four after rookie Al Thornton knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 66-62 with 4 minutes and 17 seconds left in the period.
First, Harpring scored on a reserve layup. After Boozer hit a freebie resulting from a technical foul on Corey Maggette, Ronnie Brewer scored inside. Harpring followed with a finger roll. Brewer converted a Harpring-fed layup, then stole a Sam Cassell pass and dunked on the other end. And Paul Millsap capped a 13-5 run to end the quarter, laying in a last-second pass from ex-Clipper Jason Hart to make it 79-67 heading into the fourth.
The Clippers never got closer than within nine in the final quarter, and the Jazz led by as many as 23 with 2:24 to go after Williams found Harpring for a layup and Harpring hit the free throw that followed.
"Deron," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said of Williams, "did a terrific job of getting the guys involved inside."
"We're better when we get more points in the paint," Harpring added after Utah finished just four points off its season high for inside scoring. "That's one of goals before every game."
Mission accomplished, so much so Sloan seemed willing to overlook the fact the Jazz committed 19 turnovers including eight in the opening quarter alone.
Rather, he opted to appreciate the fact Utah forced the Clippers into 20 miscues leading to 29 Jazz points and rationalize that his club's high count was due primarily to aggressive play.
"We ran the floor and pushed the ball up the floor a lot more than what we've been doing, instead of walking," said Sloan, whose Jazz winners now in eight of their last 10 are idle until playing host to Sacramento on Friday. "We were never putting any pressure on the defense until today.
"That is what we've got to do on the road," he said. "We can't just sit back."No matter what the start time.
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