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Danny La

Their best January in 13 years, second-best in franchise history.

Hey, it was nice.

But the Jazz have set their bar higher than the way they finished the month Wednesday night with a 100-89 win over the New York Knicks in EnergySolutions Arena.

The Jazz won, wire-to-wire, but a 17-point lead evaporated to three midway through the third period, and a 10-point lead at the end of the third quarter was cut to six, and the Jazz were only up seven with 4 1/2 minutes left.

"It really wasn't our best game," said power forward Carlos Boozer, who had 17 points but was three rebounds away from his 32nd double-double.

"We're very happy with the victory, but we expect much more of ourselves than what we showed tonight, and for us to stay where we are in the Western Conference, we've got to do a much better job offensively."

And defensively.

"We still played good enough 'D' to win the game, which we're happy with," said Boozer, "but we have bigger goals."

Boozer's point guard, Deron Williams, was of the same opinion.

"I just think we expect more. We had a chance in the game to blow it open and extend the lead, and we didn't do that because we got lazy on defense, and that can't happen.

"We've got to learn to finish teams off even more, early on in the game instead of at the end," said Williams, who had his fifth straight double-double with 22 points and 12 assists.

Still, the 28-18 Jazz are where they want to be, having won their sixth straight game and holding a half-game lead over Denver in the Northwest Division, thanks to that 11-2 January after a 5-11 December. It was their best January since the franchise record 14-1 in 1995.

They've won 10 straight at home — their longest streak since winning 10 in a row in March/April 1999, and they have won 12 of their last 14 games.

Utah now has a two-game weekend in the East, at Washington Friday and at Memphis Saturday before returning home for a Monday game with the New Orleans Hornets.

The Hornets had the longest current win streak in the league at nine, but when they lost Wednesday night, the Jazz took over that title with their six.

Utah has not been behind in a game since 71-70 at 7:46 of the Houston game Sunday.

"I definitely remember what it feels like to play from behind, but it feels good that we're not having to. It feels good that we've been able to put teams away at the end of games," said Williams, who was critical of his team for not doing that earlier Wednesday.

"I felt we could have played better. We had some chances to blow the game open, and we didn't take advantage of that," Williams said. "We stopped defending and took a lot of early shots and didn't run our sets and allowed them to get back into the game."

"I think we just got impatient with the offense," said guard Ronnie Brewer, who had 10 points.

But to coach Jerry Sloan, there was trouble right away.

"The way we started the ballgame off," he said, "it looked like whoever got the basketball in their hands, they shot it. If you're not going to run offense, then let's just play street ball.

"That's my big concern, is what we do to win."

"We've got to defend first and let the offense come," injected Brewer.

Early on, the Jazz were defending, getting steals on three straight Knicks possessions to go from a 6-2 lead to 12-2. On one play, center Mehmet Okur stole the ball from Knick point guard Mardy Collins, then beat Collins down the floor as Brewer got a dunk, then rebounded Brewer's missed free throw to give Williams a layup.

The Jazz finished with 12 steals and scored 29 points off New York's 19 turnovers, and Okur had three steals and his third double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 boards.

Utah ran the lead to 37-20 with an 11-2 run to start the second quarter, then saw the Knicks start chipping away. In the second half, New York's Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford got more involved, scoring 11 and 13 points in the third quarter alone. They finished with 23 and 26.

New York got it down to 57-54 before the Jazz put on a spurt that didn't entirely please Sloan.

"Deron made a couple baskets and a nice play to Andrei," he said, "but most of the other stuff was outside jump shots." That was one of Sloan's biggest complaints. "We just went to spots and stood."

New York fell to 14-31 and is still without Stephon Marbury (bone spur in left ankle). It was also without Renaldo Balkman (suspended), and starters Quentin Richardson and Eddy Curry both left the game with flu-like symptoms after playing in the first quarter.

E-mail: lham@desnews.com