Chalk up win No. 1 for the Jazz in 2009-10.
It was only the Clippers.
Which was largely the problem.
It's hard to win a beauty contest when everyone shows up in sweats.
The Jazz rallied late to fend off the lowly Clippers, 111-98, Friday in their home opener, but it wasn't exactly a Monet. More like a finger painting. Acceptable results, but oh, what a messy start.
There were the ill-conceived shots and layups allowed. And that shot by Carlos Boozer in the third quarter missed the rim but almost took out a Starbucks.
Plan on decent games against the Lakers and Celtics, this year, especially at home. But the Clippers and such?
You may want to bring a blindfold.
It took a 14-point fourth quarter by Paul Millsap and a surprisingly adept game by Kyrylo Fesenko (10 points) for the Jazz to take away the victory.
"You can talk about defense all you want, but when you take bad shots on the offensive end, nobody can guard anybody," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.
And you can talk about getting ready to play all you want, but when it's the Clippers – who won just 19 games last year — you better just just plan on a struggle.
"They got a lot of layups on us," said Sloan.
If Jazz fans were slightly wary on opening night at EnergySolutions Arena, it stood to reason. It wasn't all that long ago their favorite team was going down in the first round of the playoffs, without much of a fight. Six months later, they took up where they left off, giving it a respectable effort for two quarters in a season-opening loss at Denver, Wednesday, before melting down.
Same Jazz? It sure looked like it, right down to the dings and nicks. Three players didn't dress due to injuries on Wednesday, and Mehmet Okur went limping into the training room after spraining his knee and foot 24 seconds into the game. He didn't dress for Friday's game.
Has anything – ANYTHING – changed since last year?
Other than Andrei Kirilenko's haircut, that is?
It's not like the Jazz aren't trying. They weren't able to make any trades in the off-season, but they did sign the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to a one-night engagement. The famous choir agreed to sing the national anthem at the game Friday, for just the second time in its history. It was a stirring rendition.
Was there significance in inviting the choir? There are dozens of qualified singers and even a number of celebrities willing to sing anthems at Jazz games. Why go with the MoTab?
Obvious, isn't it?
The Jazz were willing to try almost anything to get off to a good start at home – including prayer.
Prior to tipoff, Jazz front-office personnel greeted patrons as they entered, welcoming them to a new season of home games. Among those on hand were team owners Gail and Greg Miller, team president Randy Rigby, and most significantly, general manager Kevin O'Connor.
All things considered, the maneuver went well.
"Nobody's thrown anything at me yet," said O'Connor.
About the only thing people must have wondered was how come they didn't trade Carlos Boozer.
Oh, yeah, that.
While it's true most fans didn't expect Boozer to be here for the season's start, the Jazz weren't about to give him away for nothing. They can do that in February, if needed. Odds are good he'll up his value over the course of the next four months.
On the other hand, maybe not. He missed 10 of his first 11 shots on Wednesday, and he's now 12-36 from the field. That's not just weak, it's unwatchable. After Wednesday's loss to Denver, he said he wasn't worried. Of course he isn't — at least until he tries to negotiate a lucrative free-agent deal next summer.
Then he'll want to have Wednesday back.
By Friday, things were looking somewhat better. He went nine-for-22, and the Jazz held the Clippers to 38 second-half points.
Yes, things could be worse for the Jazz. If you think they have problems, look at the Clips.
They never make a peep.
All of which played in the Jazz's favor on Friday. That's one win, with 80 games left. The next assignment will be considerably tougher: Houston on Monday.
Who knows? The Rockets have troubles of their own, including the absence of center Yao Ming, out for the season with a broken foot. Meanwhile, the Jazz's best course will be to toughen down defensively, pay attention when they play on the road and pray they stay healthy.
Oh, and greet the public at the doors with a smile.
It works for Wal-Mart, doesn't it?
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