When this season's Jazz are at their best, Utah is focused, aggressive and efficient.
The Jazz were clearly at their best Friday night.
Initially lifted by Paul Millsap and ultimately guided by Deron Williams' game-high 32 points, Utah cleanly knocked off the Orlando Magic 117-105 at EnergySolutions Arena before a crowd of 18,765.
Five Jazz players recorded at least 16 points, while a Utah team that played 48 fluid, driven minutes of basketball shot 53.9 percent from the field, sank a co-season high 10 3-pointers, and committed only seven turnovers.
"It was just a great team victory. â¦ We're just a balanced team, and tonight was a testament to that," said Williams, who knocked down four 3s and dished out nine assists to lead the Jazz.
Jameer Nelson topped the Magic (15-8) with 19 points. But a tough Utah (17-7) interior defense propelled by pesky play from Al Jefferson and Millsap negated the minimal impact made by Orlando All-NBA center Dwight Howard. An often-frustrated Howard was limited to 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting and turned the ball over five times. The lackluster performance mirrored his poor one during a Nov. 10 loss to the Jazz, when Howard was held to 14 points while committing six turnovers and five fouls.
"It was a team effort," Jefferson said. "There's no one man that can stop Dwight Howard. â¦ It's never me. It's always my teammates are going to have to help me stop a guy like him he's Superman."
Utah was super on. And it was a victory the slightly up-and-down Jazz needed, recorded in exactly the type of style that coach Jerry Sloan calls for.
Passes zipped through the hands of multiple players on offense as ball movement and an inside-out attack took precedence above one-on-one play and low-percentage long-range shots.
Meanwhile, the Jazz's defense answered an Orlando attack that initially found an answer with dribble penetration that led to 3s.
"I thought that was a terrific win for us," Sloan said.
In turn, Utah took another step forward following a 1-2 record in its last three games with home defeats to two of the NBA's elite teams in Dallas and Miami. A challenging road contest Saturday night against the Mavericks awaits the Jazz. But through 24 games Utah has knocked off premier teams such as the Heat, Atlanta, Oklahoma City, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Lakers, while erasing the Magic twice.
Through it all, Williams has shined the way. He scored 16 points and sank three 3s during the third quarter. In addition, the All-Star guard and team leader either scored or assisted every basket Utah recorded during the period.
"Deron's playing terrific basketball, is the only thing I can say," Sloan said. "I don't know where we'd be without him."
The Jazz were in rhythm from the start. Alternating offensive possessions based around Millsap and Jefferson, Utah primarily relied on half-court sets but still flew down the court when avenues opened.
Millsap said he took the court wanting to push himself and be more aggressive, taking open shots when they arrived and not settling. He did just that, leaving Sloan to state that the rotation of the ball when it left his hands was so pure that every attempt instantly looked like a make.
"I felt like I wasn't aggressive the past few games," Millsap said. "I just tried to attack and attack."
IN SHORT • The Jazz knock off Orlando 117-105 Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
KEY STAT • Utah holds Magic center Dwight Howard to 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting.
KEY MOMENT • Deron Williams scores 16 points and sinks three 3-pointers during the third period, while either scoring or assisting on every Utah basket.
Jazz at Mavericks
P At American Airlines Center
Tipoff • 6:30 p.m.
TV • FSN Utah
Radio • 1320 AM, 1600 AM, 98.7 FM
Records • Jazz 17-7, Mavericks 18-4
Last meeting • Mavericks, 93-81 (Dec. 3)
About the Mavericks • Dallas downed Utah 93-81 Dec. 3 in Salt Lake City. â¦ The Mavericks have won 11 consecutive games and held the second-best record in the Western Conference heading into Friday night. â¦ Dirk Nowitzki ranks fifth in the NBA in average scoring (24.7).
About the Jazz • Utah is 2-2 in its last four games after winning seven consecutive contests. â¦ Five players Deron Williams, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko, C.J. Miles are averaging at least 11.8 points per game.
W L Pct GB
d-S. Antonio 19 3 .864
Dallas 18 4 .818 1
d-Utah 17 7 .708 3
d-L.A. Lakers 16 7 .696 31/2
Okla. City 16 8 .696 4
Denver 14 8 .636 5
N. Orleans 14 8 .636 5
Portland 12 11 .522 71/2