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News » Jazz hitting stride entering homestand


Jazz hitting stride entering homestand


Jazz hitting stride entering homestand Somewhere between last week's beating in Boston and the end of their four-game Eastern Conference trip in Cleveland, the Jazz came together, in Carlos Boozer's opinion. Down to just nine players and without Deron Williams, the light somehow flipped on.

"It happens like that throughout the course of a season," Boozer said. "At some point in the season you go from a group of guys and you become a team. That's what happened for us on that road trip, at the end of it.

"We just became a team. We're sharing the ball, we're helping on defense, we're moving the ball, we're having fun together, we're cheering for each other. ... That's what [being a] team is about. We're playing like a team."

A dozen games into the season, the Jazz (6-6) are enjoying their best sustained stretch. They have won three of their last four games and are heading into a season-long six-game homestand starting tonight against Detroit.

Having ended a 20-game road losing streak Thursday in San Antonio, the Jazz will look to extend their one-sided dominance of Detroit. The Jazz have beaten the Pistons eight consecutive times, sweeping the last four season series.

"I think the most important thing is to try to grow from it and try to get better the next time you play," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said after his team's first victory in San Antonio since Feb. 28, 1999.

"It's a huge stretch for us right now, especially because we've already lost two games at home," Williams added, referring to this month's losses to Houston and Sacramento. "We've still got some tough teams coming in and some big games."

"This is big for us right now," Paul Millsap echoed. "Hopefully, it'll carry over at home. I hope we just don't get too comfortable and continue to come out with the same intensity."

Most remarkable is that the Jazz's success has come despite being so shorthanded. They have been left with just nine players in uniform for their last four games.

Ronnie Price was lost to a sprained left big toe last week. Williams left in the middle of the trip with one of his daughters undergoing medical testing. Mehmet Okur came down with flu-like symptoms and missed games Wednesday and Thursday.

Yet the Jazz have found ways to win even while having to start rookie guards Eric Maynor and Wesley Matthews for two games, followed by third-year center Kyrylo Fesenko for another two.

"We've done a better job of trying to share the Basketball," Sloan said. "I think that's the big thing. If a guy's running at you, make an extra pass. To start the season, we didn't do that. Everybody shot for their life. And when you try to do that, it's hard to win."

Maynor and Matthews provided an unquestioned lift. The Jazz have continued to ride the momentum following last Friday's victory in Philadelphia as well as a close loss Saturday to Cleveland in which they battled back from 16 points down in the second quarter.

They pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat Toronto and San Antonio. Boozer, meanwhile, has averaged 22.3 points and 13.3 rebounds the last four games and was a force in the final four minutes against the Spurs, scoring 10 points with two three-point plays.

Boozer figures to have much to prove tonight. The Pistons were one of few teams with significant salary-cap space last summer, but opted to spend their free-agent dollars on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.

As much as Boozer was linked to Detroit, the Pistons signaled their intention to pursue other options leading up to the July free-agent period. Boozer decided June 30 to play the final year of his contract at $12.7 million rather than becoming a free agent.

The Pistons signed Gordon and Villanueva for a combined $95.7 million in deals. Gordon is making $10 million and Villanueva $6.5 million this season while Boozer is playing to prove he belongs among the top tier of 2010 free agents.

Briefly ? Okur is probable to return tonight, the Jazz said Thursday. His career scoring average against the Pistons -- 19.2 points -- is by far his highest against any NBA team. Okur was a member of Detroit's 2004 championship team.

rsiler@sltrib.com Jazz vs. Pistons

At EnergySolutions Arena

Time ? 7 p.m.

TV ? FSN Utah

Radio ? 1320 AM, 98.7 FM

Records ? Jazz 6-6, Detroit 5-7

Last meeting ? Jazz , 99-82 (Jan. 10)

Line ? Jazz by 81/2

About the Jazz ? They have beaten the Pistons eight consecutive times overall as well as six consecutive seasons in Utah. The only team the Jazz own a longer winning streak against is Toronto at nine games. ... Mehmet Okur has averaged 19.2 points on 47.9 percent shooting against his former team while Carlos Boozer has career averages of 19.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 62.3 percent shooting against the Pistons.

About the Pistons ? They have dropped three straight and opened their four-game trip with losses to the L.A. Lakers and Portland. ... Richard Hamilton (sprained ankle) and Tayshaun Prince (ruptured disc) are out. ... After signing as free agents, Ben Gordon is averaging 21.1 points and Charlie Villanueva is averaging 15.8 points and 5.4 rebounds. ... Second-year guard Will Bynum has scored 20 points or more four times this season and ranks among the league leaders in having boosted his scoring average by 7.1 points to 14.3. Spend wisely

The Pistons opted to spend their free-agent dollars this summer on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, as opposed to potentially on Carlos Boozer. A look at their respective numbers this season:


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Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 21, 2009

 

 
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