EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — As the season winds down, the Jazz seem to keep winding up Deron Williams.

Utah's point guard played 41 or more minutes in each of the first three outings on a four-game trip that concluded Saturday night, and in four of the Jazz's five games prior to Saturday.

After he scored a game-high 32 points in Friday's key win at Boston, however, the mega-minutes may have finally caught up. Williams dished 16 assists in Saturday's 117-115 loss at New Jersey, shot scored only 11 and hit just 3-of-11 from the field.

"My shot was off a little bit," he said. "I felt like I didn't have legs, so I was trying to get everybody else involved, and trying to feed (41-point scorer Carlos) Boozer, because he was in the zone."

Williams' ratcheted minutes and the resulting minimal play for backup Ronnie Price, though, are no mere coincidence, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan suggested before Saturday's loss.

"We're trying to do what we can to win the ballgame, and obviously he's playing pretty well, so it's hard to keep him off the court," Sloan said. "As long as we can hang in there, we'll give (Williams) a chance to rest. I don't have a problem with that.

"But my job is to try to win the game," he added. "Today is the most important day."

Williams — who Sloan said has "never indicated to me he's been tired or wanted to come out of the game" — logged 39 minutes against the Nets.

HE SAID IT: Sloan, on a 2-2 road trip that started with last Tuesday's loss at Chicago: "If you can't play four games in five days in this league, then you better get in better shape."

WHAT IF: With starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko returning last Tuesday from a strained hip, replacement starter C.J. Miles logged just one minute in Utah's first three games of the trip.

In Saturday's first half, though, he played 12 high-energy minutes, scored eight points and made two steals. Yet he didn't play at all in the second half.

"I played C.J. the first part of the game, and I thought he did a good job," Sloan said. "I debated on whether or not to go back with him, but I went with the guys that kind of we've been there with. Probably I wish I would have gone with C.J."

HARD FOUL: Boozer was called for a technical foul with two minutes remaining, when he hacked Nets star Richard Jefferson hard across the arm — after referees said Williams had already fouled Jefferson from behind.

"I didn't hear a whistle," Boozer said of what he called a "momentum-changer" play. "I don't want to give up a layup, so I fouled him hard. I definitely fouled him. I just didn't want to give him an easy one."

Jefferson missed the resulting free throw, but hit both freebies stemming from Williams' foul to pull the Nets to within two at the time.

HE SAID IT II: Jazz sharpshooter Kyle Korver, on missing two last-minute 3-point attempts Saturday: "Next time I'll make 'em."

MISC.: The Jazz open a five-game homestand Monday vs. Toronto and play eight of their next nine at EnergySolutions Arena, where they've won 18 straight — one shy of tying the franchise record. ... Three Jazz players celebrate birthdays this week: Korver, who turns 27 Monday; Miles, who'll be 21 Tuesday; and Ronnie Brewer, 23 Thursday. ... New Jersey point Devin Harris' 19-point, 12-assist double-double was his second this season. His first came Dec. 8 vs. the Jazz, before he was traded from Dallas the deal that sent Jason Kidd to the Mavericks. ... The Nets have won five straight at home vs. Utah.

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com