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Jazz can set road tone

Published February 8, 2010 9:04 pm

Clippers » Struggling team with new coach awaits Utah tonight.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

More than just facing a Clippers team that has dropped six of its last seven games and is just five days removed from Mike Dunleavy's resignation as coach, the Jazz will have the big picture in mind tonight at Staples Center.

Having won eight games in a row and 12 of their last 13, the Jazz could take a 10-game winning steak into this weekend's All-Star break with victories over the Clippers and defending champion Lakers back in Utah on Wednesday.

Equally as important, with a daunting schedule in which they will play 19 of 31 games away from EnergySolutions Arena after the All-Star break, the Jazz have the opportunity to set the tone for that road stretch beginning tonight.

"We've been at home, we've been able to win some games," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said Monday. "We've got to get out on the road and see if we're just another group of guys trying to get through a game.

"We've got to go out with the idea we're going to try to win games. It's going to take everybody to play well and that's what we've had here at home for the most part."

The Jazz are coming off a four-game homestand in which they enjoyed four off days. They have gone 9-12 on the road, but have seen improvement in the last month, beating Dallas, San Antonio and Portland, as their road record continues to creep toward .500.

"I think that would be a huge step for us," Deron Williams said of reaching .500, "and a step that we're maturing and becoming a better team because our road record has been so bad the last couple years.

"We're definitely playing a lot better this year on the road, being more consistent, and we want to keep that going."

The Jazz have gone 15-26 and 17-24 on the road the last two seasons. They will return from the All-Star break with a four-game trip to play Houston, New Orleans, Golden State and Portland, followed by 10 road games in March.

Williams said the Jazz have been searching for several seasons to bring the same intensity and defensive presence on the road that they do at home. "We've got that the last couple games," Williams added, "and have won against some good teams."

The Clippers lost to both New Jersey and Minnesota -- the worst teams in the Eastern and Western conferences -- on their most recent trip. Dunleavy resigned Thursday after the Clippers returned home and was replaced by assistant coach Kim Hughes.

The Jazz, however, will take nothing for granted against the Clippers. Sloan talked Monday about the danger of going on the road and playing games "that it looks like you're supposed to win before you get there."

"You would hate for this streak to come to an end for us not coming out and playing hard," Paul Millsap added.

Sloan also is concerned about the Jazz suffering from a false sense of security after a run that has made them the toast of the NBA.

"That's the toughest thing about coaching," Sloan said. "They read the newspaper and see how great things are and all of a sudden you get out on the road, somebody gets you in the corner in the game and we can't get out of it.

"You look at a team like San Antonio over the years, they've had the ability to step out there and win wherever they play. Not just at home. That's when you get respect around the league as far as being a good basketball team is you do it wherever you play."

Williams said facing Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and the Clippers on the road is just as critical as Wednesday's visit by Kobe Bryant and Co.

"I think this is just as important a game as the Lakers game," Williams said. "Just because this is a game we should win, regardless of if it's on the road or not. But it's not going to be an easy game and we can't just overlook a team and worry about going on to the Lakers."

Jazz at Clippers

At Staples Center

Time » 8:30 p.m.

TV/Radio » FSN Utah, 1320 AM, 98.7 FM

Records » Jazz 31-18, Clippers 21-29

Last meeting » Jazz won 111-98 (Oct. 30)

Line » Jazz by 51/2

About the Jazz » The Jazz beat the Clippers in their home opener as Paul Millsap, Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer each scored 20 points or more. ... Millsap has averaged 12.2 points against the Clippers, his second-best career scoring average against any team after New Jersey. ... The Jazz's average margin of victory during their eight-game winning streak has been 12.8 points.

About the Clippers » The Clippers lost 98-81 to San Antonio on Saturday in Kim Hughes' first game after replacing Mike Dunleavy as coach. They shot just 41.3 percent, scored 27 points in the first half and committed 21 turnovers, even with Hughes encouraging the Clippers to run more on offense. Baron Davis had eight of those turnovers. ... The Clippers have gone 14-10 at home this season.

Jazz at Clippers

At Staples Center

Time » 8:30 p.m.

TV/Radio » FSN Utah, 1320 AM, 98.7 FM