Jazz look to regroup, avoid 1-4 start
With one message posted on his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon, Deron Williams underscored the urgency facing the Jazz in the season's first week. "On the way to the Dallas game!!!" Williams wrote. "Need this win ... Bad."
Even if it was the first week of November, the Jazz already were playing a must-win game. By the end of the night, they had been punched in the gut, courtesy of Dirk Nowitzki and his 29-point fourth quarter.
In the span of 24 hours, the Jazz swung from one extreme to another, yet dropped both games all the same -- embarrassed at home by a Houston team that had eight players score in double figures, and flattened on the road almost single-handedly by Nowitzki.
Now the Jazz must regroup at EnergySolutions Arena tonight against San Antonio, in front of the same fans who booed them repeatedly only three nights earlier and didn't bother to stick around for the final horn against the Rockets.
"We haven't gave them much reason to cheer yet," Williams said. "We've got to get the best fans in the world up and out of their seats for a little bit, and we haven't been able to do that."
One quarter in Dallas away from improving to 2-2 with an inspirational victory, the Jazz instead fell to 1-3. Not only are they in desperate need of a victory against San Antonio, the Jazz are in desperate need of making a statement to their fans.
Only twice in the last 25 years have the Jazz opened 1-4 -- coming in 2001-02 and 2002-03. They got off to a 5-0 start last season and 12-1 start in 2006-07. Even in losing 56 games in 2004-05, the Jazz opened that season 4-0.
"That always should be your objective is to want fans to want to watch you play," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said, "and it's a matter of trying to get five guys to play well together, and that's what we've got to do whoever we play.
"You win some ballgames and it turns things around a lot quicker. We're digging a little bit of a hole to start with, but that's part of this league."
The Jazz couldn't have asked for better in the first three quarters against the Mavericks. They held Dallas to 52 points on 31.9 percent shooting, scored nine straight points to close the quarter and appeared in control with a 67-52 lead.
"We thought we were headed in the right direction if you watched the first three quarters," Williams said. "We didn't shoot the ball well, we didn't score well -- we executed, we just had some open shots that we missed.
"But the thing is we were getting stops. Defensively, we were getting stops. We were helping each other out. We were able to force turnovers and get out and run a little bit. All until that fourth quarter."
Nowitzki took over in the quarter, with a barrage for the Mavericks record books. The Jazz lost the fourth quarter 44-18, one night after the Rockets hit them with a 22-4 run and won the quarter 34-20 behind the likes of Chase Budinger and Kyle Lowry.
"We've got to figure out how to play 48 minutes of basketball," said Williams, who played the entire second half Tuesday. "Not 42, not 43. Forty-eight. We had chances, we had them down 15, we just had to get some stops and we couldn't do it."
Carlos Boozer added: "We fought, there's no question about that.
"We definitely fought, but it's tough when you still come up short and you don't win. It's hard to take a lot of good things out of the game when you lose."
Sloan nevertheless was happier with his team's effort, one night after what he described as one of the "poorest defensive nights I've seen" in the Houston loss.
"I tell them the best thing to do is not get your head down," Sloan said. "There's a lot of basketball left to be played."
The Jazz and Kyle Korver will host a coat drive in conjunction with Saturday's game. Fans are encouraged to bring new coats for donation to the Utah Dream Center and Salt Lake Education Foundation. Korver will take part in an autograph session after the game for participants.
At EnergySolutions Arena
Time » 8:30 p.m. TV » TNT
Radio » 1320 AM, 98.7 FM
Records » Jazz 1-3; Spurs 2-1
Last meeting » Spurs, 105-99 (April 10)
Line » Jazz by 1
About the Jazz » They will get their first look at Spurs rookie DeJuan Blair, whom they brought to Utah for a draft workout but ultimately passed on with their No. 20 first-round pick over concerns about his knees. The Pittsburgh forward slid all the way to San Antonio with the 37th pick in the second round but has been a force thus far in averaging 8.3 points and 8.3 rebounds. Blair is the first Spurs rookie since Tim Duncan in 1997 to record a double-double in his debut, and was San Antonio's leading scorer and rebounder in the preseason.
About the Spurs » They haven't played since beating Sacramento 111-93 at home Saturday. ... San Antonio swept the season series 3-0 against the Jazz in 2008-09. ... Acquired from New Jersey in an offseason traded, Richard Jefferson is averaging 11.7 points and scored a season-high 21 against the Kings. ... Tim Duncan had 28 points and 16 rebounds last week in a loss at Chicago.
Today 8:30 p.m.
TV » TNT