On the day the Jazz opened a five-game homestand with a win over Toronto, coach Jerry Sloan still had last Saturday's loss at New Jersey on his mind.
Specifically, he was consumed by how late-game defense or lack thereof proved so costly in a two-point loss that ended with Richard Jefferson driving past Andrei Kirilenko for the game-winning basket with 1.5 seconds remaining.
"In a game like that, you've got to be able to give a little bit more of yourself to be able to stop them," Sloan said Monday. "I don't know, maybe I had the wrong guys out there.
"I look at our team," he added, "and we don't really have a defensive stopper, (where) I can put a guy on (and say), 'You go out and stop that guy.' I'd like for somebody to step up and be that kind of guy, that can go out and guard guys and keep them from going where they want to go. We need that for this team to move forward."
One night before falling at New Jersey, the Jazz beat the league-leading Celtics in Boston.
"You look at Boston ... they've got four or five guys that really come out and get after you on the defensive end of the floor," he said. "They're very good offensively, but, you know, they all play defense. And I haven't been able to get our guys to play at that level defensively. At times we do, and at times we don't."
At this point, Sloan seeks someone, anyone, to fill the role.
"It doesn't have to be a starter," he said before the Jazz beat the Raptors. "Anybody who wants to defend."
Sloan especially would have liked to have seen someone slow down Nets star and ex-Raptor Vince Carter, who finished with 25 points while Jefferson scored 27.
"Carter's won about three games against us just coming down and making baskets, whether it's a 3-point shot or a layup," he said. "People say, 'Well, you should guard him different.' Yeah, you should guard him different. But somebody's got to be able to do that.
"My mentality would be to play him as hard as I can, (and) if I foul him, I foul him," the Jazz coach added. "Some guys (are) afraid they'll foul and they'll be on TV for fouling him. I'd rather be on TV from trying than for not trying."
Against the Nets, Sloan closed small, finishing with Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Kirilenko and Carlos Boozer.
Now he questions that.
"They put a small lineup on us out there and, you know, maybe I should have tried to guard them with a big lineup. Who knows?" he asked. "That's where you second guess yourself so much."
ON THE OTHER HAND: All that said, Sloan remains high on his 45-24 Jazz.
"They've proven they can play against anybody in the league," he said. "But they've got to come out and do it. It can't be just a sometimes thing.
"I think these guys are so much better than what they've shown," Sloan added. "I'm just trying to be honest about it. If I didn't think we had the ability to be able to do it, I wouldn't be complaining as much. I'd just let it go and look to see if we could replace some of them."
STREAK? WHAT STREAK? Don't count Sloan among those necessarily blown away by Houston's current 22-game win streak, which will be on the line tonight against the Celtics.
"It doesn't astound me at all," he said. "That's what you can do if you pull together. If you totally commit yourself to playing together, all these teams have the ability to do that."
Sloan did concede, though, that "it's difficult.""There's a lot of things," he said, "that pull people apart. 'I'm not getting to play enough,' or 'I'm not getting enough shots.' When you quit worrying about all those things and just go play the game, then you've got a lot of chances to win every time you step on the floor."
E-mail: [email protected]