John Stockton and Karl Malone's teams never did it. Adrian Dantley and Darrell Griffith's teams never did it.

Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and the current Utah Jazz team have the opportunity tonight — starting at 8:30, when the Los Angeles Lakers invade EnergySolutions Arena for a national TNT broadcast — to set a franchise record.

As Boozer says, that's not something that comes along every day for Jazz players of the post-Malone/Stockton era.

"It's something that hasn't been done here before, and any time you get a chance to go into the record books in Utah — which is tough to do with the success they've had here before — you want to take advantage of it," said Boozer, who also admitted, "Oh, we're excited" over the chance to win a 20th straight home game and break the thrice-hit franchise mark of 19.

The 1989-90 Jazz of Stockton, Malone, Thurl Bailey, Mark Eaton, Griffith, Blue Edwards and Bobby Hansen won 19 straight in the Salt Palace under the old Jazz note logo from Dec. 13 to March 3.

And the 1995-96 Jazz of Malone, Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, Chris Morris, David Benoit, Antoine Carr and Felton Spencer won 19 in a row in what was then the Delta Center, in the last season of the original-logo jerseys, from Jan. 19 to March 29.

And the current Utah team of Williams, Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur, Ronnie Brewer, Matt Harpring, Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver tied the 19-straight mark with its 96-79 victory Monday over Toronto in ESA.

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, of course, has a different approach than Boozer about the possibility of breaking the franchise record.

"I'm not into breaking records, just winning," Sloan said before Wednesday's Jazz practice.

Williams is in Sloan's camp on that. "My focus is always the same, getting a victory. That's the most important thing," said the point guard.

If the 45-24 Jazz can somehow keep up their winning ways tonight against Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, last season's Utah teammate Derek Fisher and a 46-21 Laker club that won Tuesday at Dallas without injured forward Pau Gasol to break a two-game losing streak, Sloan says it won't necessarily validate to him this group of Jazzmen over any previous Jazz team.

"I don't try to compare that (Stockton/Malone) team to this team," he said. "This is a different group of guys. It's not even the same personalities.

"It's like, when I took this job, Frank Layden had just left, and that was a very difficult guy to try to replace because of his (outgoing personality). I had to be who I am, and Frank was who he was. These guys have got to be who they are, and John and Karl and all those guys were who they were. So I can't get involved in that. I don't like to even talk about it because I don't think it's a fair assessment."

Sloan also doesn't want to assess where the Jazz are right now, a couple games from the Western Conference lead, shared Wednesday by the Lakers and Houston Rockets, whose own 22-game win streak (in any building) was stopped Tuesday night by Boston.

"We aren't anywhere right now," said Sloan. "We're still in the playoffs, and that's our bottom line is try to make the playoffs. All the other stuff doesn't matter. I'm only interested in how we do and how we get this team to the playoffs."

Sloan was effusive about Bryant, even starting to compare him to that great Jazz villain Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, who almost single-handedly kept Stockton and Malone from winning championship rings in 1997 and '98.

"He's a defender," said Sloan, who likely rates that as his highest praise. "I love the way he gets up and guards people. I love the way he plays. ... To me, he's a lot like Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan was a great offensive player, made big shots, did all those things."

Sloan said a favorite memory of the high-scoring Jordan was watching him take over defensively in the World Games years ago. "He took it on himself just to be a defensive player, and I think Kobe has some of those attributes."

Sloan also praises Bryant's willingness to share the ball this season.

"I think he's realized at this time in his career he's got players that are going to help him," Sloan said. "He doesn't have to do as much. He's relinquished a lot of his own personal beliefs to complement his team, and once players do that, they're really, really difficult to play against.

"We've never had an answer for Kobe Bryant as long as I've played against him."

Second-year man Brewer, who turns 23 today, will likely match up with Bryant as a birthday present, at least to start the game.

"You've got to get to him early, make him take tough shots," he said, noting that Houston's Shane Battier somewhat successfully played Bryant physically. Bryant was 11-for-33 for 24 points in a 104-92 loss at Houston Sunday.

"Getting a hand in his face every shot, trying to deny him the ball sometimes and make other guys beat you," Brewer said of Battier's work. "He's going to get the shots up, get the points, but you've got to challenge him, make him earn it on every play."

The Jazz say the Lakers are a different team without Gasol, but they can cope.

"I think it helps out (Utah) a little bit, but they're still a good team," Brewer said of a Gasol-less L.A.

"Oh, a lot (different)," said Boozer. "They don't have the same inside presence, but they do have some guys that play hard. Ronny Turiaf is a very good energy guy for them, Luke Walton makes shots for them. They have guys that can go in there and play, and we can't take them lightly."

"He's another player that plays for his teammates," Sloan said about Turiaf, "passes the ball well and just does things to try to help you win."

"I think he's underrated, absolutely," Boozer said of Turiaf.


Jazz on the air

Los Angeles Lakers (46-21) at Utah Jazz (45-24)

Today: 8:30 p.m., TV: TNT Radio: 1320 AM, 98.7 FM


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