It was long before big German Dirk Nowitzki took Andrei Kirilenko to the floor with a first-quarter takedown that sent the Jazz's forward from Russia to a local hospital for X-rays.
Well before Deron Williams finished dishing 20 assists against his favorite former, and now current, Dallas Mavericks point guard, Jason Kidd.
Even way before the Mavs rallied from 21 points down to take a brief fourth-quarter lead.
No, the Jazz were into this one from the get-go and it showed in a 116-110 victory Monday night that marked Utah's 16th straight victory at EnergySolutions Arena, three shy of the franchise record of 19.
The Jazz are now 26-3 on their own floor, and they pulled out of a tie with the Mavs for best home record in the NBA. Utah and Dallas also are tied with the same overall record, 39-22.
"I thought we were already pumped up from the beginning of the game," said the Texas-raised Williams, whose assist count matched his season-high and was one off his career best. "I thought we came out and set the tempo."
"I thought we came out aggressive," added All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer, who scored a game-high 28 points, shot 12-of-19 from the field and was credited with three steals. "We came out very confident. We did a good job defensively, and then we ran on them on the first quarter. I don't know what the lead was."
Told it was 25-6 less than six minutes into the game, even Boozer sounded shocked.
"Was it?" he asked. "We were just playing. We were trying to win a game. Honestly. I mean, we ran our offense crisp, took advantage of what they gave us and knocked down shots."
That was evident from early on, as Williams needed only seven seconds to find Boozer for a quick layup. It was one of many pinpoint passes by Williams, who had 14 assists at halftime one shy of John Stockton's franchise record for assists in a half.
"He was phenomenal," Boozer said of Williams, who also dropped 19 dimes in Saturday's win at Memphis.
Even Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was impressed by the first-quarter intensity, something Utah has struggled with since the mid-February NBA All-Star Game and in particular during losses last week at Minnesota and New Orleans.
"The start was terrific compared to what we've had since then," said Sloan, whose club now has consecutive victories for the first time since the break. "That's something our team has got to be able to do."
Contained within the Jazz's opening-quarter flurry, one which had them up 35-14 with just less than three minutes to go in the period, was reigning NBA MVP Nowitzki's pull-down on Kirilenko.
Kirilenko, who was yanked after going up for a layup, remained on the floor for a few minutes after the incident. He got up with assistance and hit two free throws to make it 21-6, but exited for X-rays on what is being called a sprained hip.
"I didn't mean to grab the neck," Nowitzki said, "but I just tried to hold him so he doesn't score."
The Jazz had some issues of their own holding the Mavericks so they did not score after the break.
And by the time Kidd back in Dallas after a recent trade from New Jersey hit a 3-pointer with nine minutes to go, the Mavs had their first lead of the game at 89-88.
They got it up to three at 92-89 when Kidd knocked down a 23-footer, but Boozer answered with a Williams-fed layup and two subsequent free throws to put Utah ahead to stay with 5:34 remaining.
The Jazz pushed their lead back to as many as 14, and sealed it after Dallas had managed to get within five with 6-of-6 free-throw shooting from Kyle Korver in the final 38 seconds.
Utah, in fact, shot 18-of-18 from the line in the last quarter and converted each of its final 18 freebies
"We let them back in the ball game," Sloan said, "because I thought we really got kind of casual running the floor on the defensive end.
"We were fortunate," he added, "that we were able to finish it off."Especially in light of the start.
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