Utah Jazz: Utah recovers against Toronto
As Kyrylo Fesenko stole the ball from Chris Bosh at halfcourt in the first quarter, turned into a one-man, 7-foot-1, 300-pound fast break and danced around Jose Calderon for a layup, the Jazz couldn't have appeared in for an easier night against the Toronto Raptors.
The opposite, however, proved to be true Wednesday, even after the Jazz built an 18-point first-half lead. They held on for a 104-91 victory before 17,879 at EnergySolutions Arena, though not before Toronto closed within a point early in the fourth quarter.
In the end, the Jazz improved to 5-6, beating the Raptors for a ninth consecutive time. The Jazz were left with only nine players again, as Mehmet Okur stayed home with flu-like symptoms, but relied on a third consecutive impressive game by rookie Eric Maynor.
"We know they're an explosive team, offensive team, that can make runs, that can get hot," Deron Williams said, "and they did that and we were able to sustain their runs and get a victory."
The Jazz now will look tonight to end a 20-game regular-season losing streak in San Antonio. The Spurs lost in overtime to Dallas on Wednesday without Tony Parker, who reaggravated his sprained ankle, and lost Manu Ginobili in the first quarter to a strained groin.
"We're not going to talk about it," Williams said. "We're just going to go down and get a victory. We've got to forget this curse thing and just go down there and win."
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan walked into the locker room after Wednesday's game and jokingly reminded his players that they hadn't won in San Antonio in "40 years." Actually, the Jazz's last victory came Feb. 28, 1999. "In basketball years, that's a long time," Williams said.
The Jazz led 33-16 at the end of the first quarter Wednesday, but saw the Raptors close within nine points at halftime -- with Bosh (32 points, 17 rebounds) keying a 13-4 run -- and within three points only four minutes into the second half.
With 11:05 to play, the Raptors trailed 78-77 after Williams leaned into Hedo Turkoglu looking for a foul call and missed a jumper, and Marco Belinelli ran for a layup at the other end. But the Jazz answered with a 17-2 run.
Maynor scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, including eight in a row, following his 24-point effort in Saturday's loss to Cleveland. That included a runner off a tough drive as well as a turnaround floater. (Maynor thought it was more of a jump hook.)
"He continues to impress me," Williams said. He's playing great, composed, he's making plays. It takes a lot of pressure off a lot of people."
"We're finding out that we're a deeper team than we knew coming into the season," added Carlos Boozer, who had 22 points and 18 rebounds.
After Andrei Kirilenko stripped Turkoglu in the lane, Mayor's layup gave the Jazz an 89-79 lead with 6:10 left. Kirilenko finished with 20 points off the bench, hitting a jumper and getting behind the defense on the break as part of the fourth-quarter run.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan opted to play Maynor and Williams together for a stretch of the first half, then returned to the pairing for the entire fourth quarter. Maynor said it was "lovely" to play with Williams as two point guards that can push the ball and think the same way.
"He's a guy that can get me some open shots where I don't have to just try to get everything myself," Williams said. "A lot of times, that's mainly where my shots are is me creating for myself. It gives me a chance to get off the ball and rest a little bit."
"Day by day, I'm getting more and more confidence," Maynor added. "Coach Sloan is gaining more confidence in me and my teammates are gaining more confidence in me. I'm cool with that."
Williams had 20 points and nine assists in his first game back after leaving the Jazz in the middle of last week's road trip due to health concerns involving one of his daughters.
"It's a lot better than we thought," Williams said. "We're still running some tests and seeing where things are going."
IN SHORT » The Jazz lose almost all of their 18-point first-half lead, but hold on in the fourth quarter.
KEY MOMENT » Eric Maynor runs for a layup after an Andrei Kirilenko steal.
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