Williams helps Jazz beat down Hornets
SALT LAKE CITY (AP)
Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said he could have flipped a coin when it came to choosing the team's top pick in the 2005 NBA draft.
''We could have gone either way and it wouldn't have mattered,'' Sloan said.
It mattered to point guard Deron Williams, who Wednesday night treated Jazz fans to an All-Star performance. Williams, the No. 3 overall pick in 2005 ahead of Chris Paul, led Utah with 26 points, 11 assists and five steals in a 105-87 victory over Paul's New Orleans Hornets.
Paul finished with 17 points, nine assists and five steals as the Hornets (11-3) dropped their second straight.
''I've always followed that matchup,'' said Jazz forward Al Jefferson, acquired in a trade with Minnesota this offseason. ''To be a part of it and see it up-close-and-personal is amazing. They know each other well, have been playing against each other a long time. To see D-Will step his game up to a whole 'other level tonight was just fun to watch.''
Williams missed his first three shots but finished the first quarter strong, hitting a 3-pointer then completing a three-point play that gave the Jazz a 31-30 lead - only the third time at home this season they have led after one quarter.
He added seven points in the fourth quarter, punctuated by another steal and a dunk that pushed Utah's lead to 101-82 and sealed the victory.
''We always have fun playing against each other,'' Williams said. ''We are good friends off the court. But on the court we always like to battle.''
Williams seems to come up big each time. This was his fourth double-double against Paul.
''It's not just me against CP. My team seems to perform well against him,'' Williams said.
Williams is 12-3 against the Hornets with Paul in the lineup.
''It's always the New Orleans Hornets versus the Utah Jazz,'' Paul said. ''We have not played a one-on-one game since we've been in this league. It's was a collective (win) for them. ''They executed and we didn't.''
The first standing ovation Wednesday night wasn't for Williams; it was for Utah's second unit.
''It pretty much means we did our job as a unit,'' Watson said of the ovation. ''The best part of it is when the other team calls timeout. Then you know you did your job.''
Watson and Miles also connected for a big play down the stretch that brought fans to their feet again.
This time Miles blocked a shot by Emeka Okafor and Watson raced the other way with the rebound for a driving layup and 94-81 lead with 6:02 left.
''They played big,'' Jefferson said of Utah's second unit. ''They came in and boosted us up big-time. It's amazing how well they're playing.''
Jefferson, who is pinching himself that he's not in Minnesota anymore, also put together one of his best games.
He scored 10 fourth-quarter points as the Jazz turned a five-point game into a rout. Jefferson finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Paul Millsap added 17 points and seven boards.
''I tell everyone I'm not used to this,'' said Jefferson, who was part of a team that won only 15 games last season. ''It's really exciting to be a part of this team.''
The Hornets had been allowing a league-low 91.1 points per game. Utah was two-thirds of the way there at halftime thanks to 57 percent shooting, 14 assists and a 20-13 advantage in rebounds.
New Orleans was within five points with 10:10 left in the game. Then Jefferson hit a shot and grabbed a defensive rebound, and the Hornets never got closer than nine points.
Jefferson said the win was important heading into Friday night's game against the Lakers, which swept Utah out of the playoffs last season in the Western Conference semifinals.
''It will be an exciting game for our team and the fans,'' Jefferson said. ''We're a lot bigger this year and we got a great confidence boost tonight. We beat a great playoff team tonight.''
Williams had only one Thanksgiving request.
''Hopefully we don't eat too much turkey and stuffing, and we can have the same energy we did this game,'' Williams said.
Notes: Utah center Mehmet Okur, out with a ruptured Achilles' suffered in the playoffs last year, took another step toward his return when he participated in a scrimmage during practice Tuesday. ''He looked like the same guy,'' Sloan said. ''He hasn't changed. His hair isn't any darker. He looked like the same person. We can't put any pressure on him. He's got to use his own judgment on where he is.''... New Orleans had been giving up only 13.4 points off turnovers entering Wednesday, but the Jazz forced 17 turnovers and scored 26 points off those mistakes. ...The Hornets are 2-10 in their last 12 games against the Jazz. ...The Jazz finished 19 of 19 from the free throw line.