Jazz win a slam dunk vs. Nets
As much success as the Jazz have enjoyed in recent years, a handful of their players have suffered through the misery of a losing season in the NBA. Carlos Boozer, for one, broke into the league with a Cleveland Cavaliers team that finished 17-65 in 2002-03.
Kyle Korver and Ronnie Price both played for 33-49 teams in Philadelphia and Sacramento before coming to Utah. Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur are the three remaining holdovers from the Jazz's 26-56 team in 2004-05.
Those seasons, however, seem like fairy tales compared to the nightmare that is the New Jersey Nets. Someday in the history books, the Jazz very well could be responsible for losses Nos. 24 and 40 of the worst team the NBA has ever seen.
The Jazz dropped the Nets to an almost unfathomable 3-40 with a 116-83 victory Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena, blowing open the game with a 16-0 run in the first quarter and leading by a season-high 37 points in the fourth.
"I've got some friends on that team, and they were bickering and talking back and forth to each other," Carlos Boozer said. "You feel bad for a team like that and hopefully they can get it together and salvage a little bit of the rest of the season and get some wins."
It was the sixth victory in the last seven games for the Jazz (25-18), who could be credited with taking care of business.
The Nets joined the 1996-97 Denver Nuggets and 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks as the only teams in NBA history to open 3-40.
Even the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, owners of the worst record ever at 9-73, were 4-39 after 43 games, though they were on their way to 4-58 thanks to a 20-game losing streak.
Mehmet Okur scored 13 of his 20 points in the first quarter in what was just his second 20-point game all season. Deron Williams was needed for just 26 minutes and totaled four points and eight assists in his second-lowest scoring game of the season.
"I thought it was as big a win as we could have all season," Williams said. "We came out from the start of the game and acted like we wanted the game."
The Nets were making the final stop Saturday of a four-game trip and playing the second game of a back-to-back set after Friday's 111-79 loss at Golden State. They lost Devin Harris to a sprained wrist against the Warriors, with Keyon Dooling starting Saturday.
"It's a dark tunnel right now, and it's tough, you've got to fight your way out," said Nets coach Kiki Vandeweghe, who replaced Lawrence Frank in the midst of an 0-18 start. "There's no other way, whether you have two guys who can play or all 12.
"It's just been kind of one thing after another. And I think in some ways, the guys are used to that -- that they've just got to keep working, keep fighting and, hey, some time something good's going to happen."
The Nets have beaten three teams -- Charlotte, Chicago and New York -- and haven't won since Dec. 30. After Saturday's loss, the Nets are 1-23 on the road, 0-19 against the Western Conference and have dropped 11 straight in their third double-digit losing streak.
Okur set the tone during the Jazz's 16-0 run in the first quarter, scoring in the post against Yi Jianlian, hitting a hook shot, driving for a layup after passing on a jumper and connecting on a three-pointer to make it 20-9.
"I was able to mix up my game a little bit at the very beginning," Okur said. The Jazz followed his lead in hitting 12 of 14 shots (85.7 percent) and building a 19-point lead in the first quarter.
The Nets went 0-for-5 with four turnovers during the run as the Jazz successfully double-teamed Brook Lopez. Kirilenko picked off a Lopez pass and raced for a dunk while Okur blocked Lopez on the next possession.
With the Jazz scoring 70 points in the paint, Vandeweghe said, "That's not something that should ever happen, things like that happen, and it's just unfortunate right now that we're not playing with enough effort to win a basketball game or come close."
"It's like playing on an expansion team," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said of the Nets' plight. "You're still expected to win. That's just the way it is." Of course, the expansion Chicago Bulls team Sloan played on in 1966-67 did finish 33-48.
IN SHORT » The Jazz take full advantage of the hopeless 3-40 Nets with a 33-point victory.
KEY MOMENT » The Jazz take the lead with a 16-0 run in the first quarter and come up with three successive steals in the second quarter.
KEY STAT » The Jazz's victory is their biggest since beating Washington 129-87 on March 31, 2008.