The Utah Jazz were down 31-23 Saturday night to the Seattle Sonics, a team with only 16 wins for the season. The boos started to come out at EnergySolutions Arena, a place where the home team is not often out of favor.
But it was the third night that week that the Jazz had started slowly, which also doesn't happen often at ESA. Utah won two of those games, against Toronto and Seattle, but never came close against the Los Angeles Lakers in a loss on Thursday.
"You definitely have to be concerned because that's not how we've been playing all year, and we've had so much success at home," said Jazz point guard Deron Williams before Monday's practice. "We've relied on coming out and having great starts and getting hot at the right time, and I think we've got to try to get back to that."
The Jazz get their next chance tonight at 7 when the Charlotte Bobcats enter ESA.
Yes, those Bobcats, who are 25-44 and 12th in the Eastern Conference of the NBA but who slapped the Jazz with a 98-92 loss during their dreadful December on the road a game that started with Charlotte leading 21-19 after the first quarter and got ugly enough that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan pulled guard Gordan Giricek off the floor during a timeout and sent him to the locker room. Giricek was traded to Philadelphia (and since picked up by Phoenix) for Kyle Korver about 10 days later.
While Williams who said Monday the right hand he bruised Saturday night is fine had some uncomfortable thoughts about being down by more than 20 points after the first quarters in those three games last week, his favorite target for assists, Carlos Boozer, had kind of an opposite take.
"Nope. That's very few and far between for us," he said. "That doesn't happen much. It did happen, of course, but it doesn't happen very often for us, so I'm not concerned about it."
Utah's five-game homestand continues with the Los Angeles Clippers in town Friday night.
Sloan, who can rain on any silver lining, was kind of with Boozer on this one.
It's OK to start slow, Sloan said, "if you win."
His point is that it's how the team finishes that's more important, and fast starts can even sometimes lead to trouble.
"Sometimes you start off, and you look up and see the score is 15-2 (for your team) or something and say, 'Oh, wow,"' Sloan said.
"You know the other team is going to come back, and the players are playing like, 'We're going to finish them off right here.'
"Well, there's some teams that maybe you can, maybe you can finish them off in that period of time," Sloan said. "But there are a lot of teams that just keep playing. I'm always skeptical probably about trying to blow a team away."
When he's on the wrong end of an early score, "We hope that we can do that (foil a blowout). When things kind of get a little bad, that we can keep playing just a couple baskets at a time, make a couple stops and get back into the game."
Like a Seattle only better, Charlotte is another of those dangerous teams that can take advantage of an opening.
"Yeah, they go out there, and they play hard," said Williams, "and sometimes you don't get up for those games as much as you do for teams that are in the playoffs. But we can't let that happen. We've had that problem all year."
"It's a challenge for us," said Boozer. "I remember when I was at Cleveland. We were very dangerous, very young, athletic, and we beat some teams we probably shouldn't have beat, but we played hard. Those teams are very dangerous. For us, the challenge is to beat them."
Sloan would rather not see his team distinguish between the Lakers and the Sonics, as far as its pre-game anticipation level, getting higher for one than the other.
"I hope it's not that way. They probably get up on the first and the 15th (paydays). Get up the same way for whoever we play," he said. "Charlotte is a very capable team."
GOOD TIMES: Boozer had a happy weekend. There was the comeback win Saturday night, followed by the Ronnie Brewer-C.J. Miles birthday party hosted by Williams at club BLISS downtown.
"We had a blast, man. Had a good time," Boozer said. "Guys got a chance to hang out a little bit. We got a chance to let loose as a group of guys, as a team. Almost the whole team was there.
"You always need that, it's such a long season, so much stress involved in it."
And on Sunday, Boozer's three young boys had an Easter egg hunt. "They found all the eggs, too," he said. There was also church and a cookout for the Boozer family.
Sloan spent his Sunday relaxing and not watching any of the NCAA Tournament games. "No, I didn't. I watched my eyelids a little bit. They gave me a good show," he said.
GREAT 2008: Since the start of 2008, Utah's 29-9 record is second-best in the league to Houston's 32-7 that included the Rockets' 22-game win streak. The third-best team from Jan. 1 to Monday morning was New Orleans at 27-10, followed by Boston (29-11) and the Lakers (29-11).LEAPIN' LEANERS: The Jazz's annual Leapin' Leaners and Low Tops fund-raising gala, in which fans get to rub elbows with the team on the court at ESA, will be Wednesday night. Proceeds from the $200-a-person event go to Larry H. Miller Charities, a nonprofit organization that funds children's charities in health and education in communities in which Miller does business. Fans get to shoot basketballs, play Ping-Pong, virtual golf and video games with team members and get autographs and photos, along with having a buffet dinner. Black-tie or semiformal dress is encouraged, but guests must also wear gym shoes.
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