Utah Jazz: Williams' return lifts Jazz
PHILADELPHIA - If the Jazz hadn't coughed up the ball 22 times in Sunday's loss to New York and if Mehmet Okur hadn't headed to Turkey to attend to his ailing father, Deron Williams admitted he wouldn't have considered coming back so soon.
But Williams lived through too many disappointing road trips last season to let this season start with another. He took the court Tuesday night a little more than three weeks after suffering a sprained left ankle that should have kept him out a month.
It turned out to be just the lift the Jazz needed. With Williams playing 31 minutes and Ronnie Brewer scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter, the Jazz used three solid quarters to overcome one shaky one and beat the Philadelphia 76ers 93-80 at Wachovia Center.
"We struggled a lot in that New York game. I didn't like how that went," Williams said. "I felt like after [Monday], doing a little three-on-three and it felt pretty good. . . . I'm not going to risk injuring myself. It's more just pain. I'm just going to play through it."
Williams neglected to mention one thing about those three-on-three games: He played four of them without losing once, according to Carlos Boozer.
Boozer led the Jazz (6-1) with 19 points and 16 rebounds, Andrei Kirilenko added 16 points and 19-year-old rookie Kosta Koufos, starting in place of Okur, had six points and five rebounds in 21 minutes, scoring his first NBA points on a first-quarter alley-oop from Brewer.
Williams said he would wait until this morning to decide about playing in the second game of the Jazz's back-to-back set tonight at Washington. He heard from Jazz trainer Gary Briggs that he got through the game without any obvious signs of favoring the ankle.
"Every day it's gotten a lot stronger and every day I'm getting more courage to try things and push off it a little more," Williams said. "I think I probably can explode if I wanted to, but I'm just a little hesitant."
Williams finished with seven points and nine assists, but made only one shot all game, a first-quarter three-pointer. That was more than could be said for Brewer, at least through the first three quarters.
Brewer went into the fourth quarter having missed all eight shots he had attempted. He had a layup blocked by Thaddeus Young to open the fourth, but stayed with the play and pounded in a layup while being fouled by Marresse Speights.
"You can ask anybody in here," Brewer said. "I was pretty down on myself at halftime and D-Will said, 'Hey, that's why we play basketball. There's two halves to every game.' "
The three-point play gave the Jazz the lead for good (68-67) and was just the beginning for Brewer. He knocked down a 17-footer, scored on another three-point play against Andre Iguodala and dunked on a breakaway after stripping Iguodala.
In the end, Brewer scored all 16 of his points in the fourth quarter, which the Jazz won 30-13.
He totaled nine assists and six rebounds and played 38 minutes as Kyle Korver went 1-for-7 in his return to Philadelphia.
It wasn't a new career-high for Brewer, who played 40 minutes against Phoenix last season, but further proof he has evolved and is close to playing true starter minutes.
"I think you can see coach gaining more and more trust in him," Williams said.
As was the case in Sunday's loss, the Jazz struggled in the third quarter again. The Sixers erased what had been a 14-point lead for Utah, epitomized as Elton Brand (13 points, six blocks) swatted Paul Millsap's shot and pushed ahead for a layup on the fast break.
"We went through a stretch there where we looked like we were going to fold up like we did over in New York," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
The Jazz lost the quarter 30-14, giving up a 16-2 run in the process, but regrouped in time. They heard the sweet sound of the Sixers (2-5) being booed off their court, put themselves in position to have a winning five-game trip and won Sloan's 1,001st game as Jazz coach.
"It was a good, solid win for us," Williams said. "A team that's struggling right now, it could have been another trap game."
* IN SHORT: The Jazz improve to 6-1 and 1-1 on this road trip.
* KEY MOMENT: After missing his first nine shots of the game, Ronnie Brewer finally scored on a three-point play with 10:44 remaining.
*KEY STAT: Carlos Boozer (19 points) and Paul Millsap (16 points) both outplayed Philadelphia's Elton Brand (12 points)