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News » Finishing strong: Unlike season opener, Jazz get big fourth quarter for win


Finishing strong: Unlike season opener, Jazz get big fourth quarter for win


Finishing strong: Unlike season opener, Jazz get big fourth quarter for win It ended with a late-game highlight-reel dunk by Ronnie Price that put a big, fat exclamation mark on the first win of the 2009-10 season. And the Utah Jazz's home-opener began with a pregame meet-and-greet with the Miller family and Jazz brass at entry ways, a stirring rendition of the national anthem by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a Haka dance by powerful-looking Polynesian performers and fireworks. What happened between all that hoopla and the eventual 111-98 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, however, caught most in the sold-out EnergySolutions Arena by surprise. The Jazz , who were playing with Mehmet Okur (ankle, knee), Kyle Korver (knee) and C.J. Miles (thumb) in dressy duds, will gladly take the comeback win nevertheless.

"Anyway you get a win, it certainly was a good one," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. Especially, he added, because Utah was forced to "mix and match" players. The Clippers gave a gutsy effort for nearly three quarters, but the Jazz did in this game what they were unable to do in their season-opening loss at Denver ? finish strong. And, boy, did they ever pound out an impressive finish. Paul Millsap scored 14 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, and the Jazz used a commanding 15-0 run midway through the second half to turn a six-point deficit into the blowout victory most expected. "Paul Millsap had a terrific game," Sloan said, "and a lot of other guys played well." Surprisingly, the Jazz needed all the contributions they got. Included among the players to delight the nail-biting home crowd: Deron Williams with 21 points and nine assists, Carlos Boozer with 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, Ronnie Brewer with 17 points and five boards and Kyrylo Fesenko with 10 points and a blocked shot in a solid start in place of the late-scratch Okur. "Tonight we played really great Basketball in the second half," Fesenko said. "We executed, we were playing defense, helping each other and we get lots of layups. That's what led us to victory." Playing the Clippers seemed like it might be anti-climactic to the opening-night festivities. They are, after all, now 1-35 all-time in this building and have lost five straight against Utah. But the perennial NBA doormats threatened to steal the show in Utah even without injured No. 1 pick Blake Griffin available. That changed late in the third quarter when Utah finished the quarter with a 5-0 spurt ? highlighted by Millsap's in-one-motion catch-and-release bucket and an ensuing free throw. The Jazz continued the surge in the fourth quarter, holding Los Angeles scoreless for the first three minutes while grabbing a 93-84 lead. The Clippers didn't make a field goal until 6:26 remained in the fourth, and Utah held the visitors to a Millsap-matched 14 points in the final quarter. Sloan thought how his players tried to establish themselves offensively early on, thus taking some poor shots, led to the Clippers' strong opening. The two teams went to the locker room tied at 60-all. "We were just taking tough shots. Every tough shot led for an easy basket for them," Sloan said. "They out-executed us in the first half. That's why they got a lot of layups on us." When Utah finally got serious about taking smart shots and playing as a team, the Jazz finally put the Clippers in their place. "We executed almost every play," said Sloan, referring to the Jazz's late-game surge. "We did a good job of executing, getting the ball where we wanted to go and had good shots ? and it wasn't like we were trying to force shots." Boozer, who struggled again shooting during a 9 of 22 night, laughed about one bad shot. He missed the rim wide left ? really wide left ? by about six feet in the third quarter. Fortunately for the Jazz , the game didn't slip away in similar fashion. "I was like, 'Oh my! I was so open, too. I was looking forward to shooting it and then it just slipped out of my hand," Boozer said, laughing. "Sometimes that happens. It'll be on bloopers I guess. " As opposed, that is, to a soaring one-handed putback stuff Price had with a minute left. "That dunk was special, wasn't it?" Boozer said. "It needs to be on ESPN. Yeah, that was beautiful." Three Clippers scored more than 20 points in the loss, including Eric Gordon (22), Chris Kaman (21) and Baron Davis (21). NOTES: Swingman C.J. Miles will have his cast removed Nov. 9, when the Jazz are in New York. Miles had the ruptured ulnar collateral thumb ligament on his left, shooting hand surgically repaired in New York on Oct. 11. He may find out then if he can return before December. ... According to the NBA's annual survey of opening-night rosters, the Jazz are the league's sixth-youngest team with an average age of 25.93. League average: 27.74. Memphis (25.35) is youngest, Northwest Division-rivals Portland and Oklahoma City also are younger than Utah, and San Antonio's oldest (29.27). ... Jazz big Kosta Koufos is the league's 10th-youngest player at 20.77, and 300-pound Fesenko is listed as third-heaviest behind Shaquille O'Neal (325) and Yao Ming (300). Contributing: Tim Buckley e-mail: jody@desnews.com


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Added: November 1, 2009

 

 
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