Jazz club Bucks to extend win streak
Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson was sporting a bloody cut on his chin. But in the end, he caused the most damage Monday night.
Jefferson, looking more and more comfortable with his new team, led Utah with 22 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots in a 109-88 victory over injury-depleted Milwaukee.
''When we want to, we can play defense,'' said Jefferson, acquired from Minnesota in an offseason trade. ''We've just got to continue to do that every night, no matter who we are playing.''
It helped that the Bucks were without two key big men in Andrew Bogut (back) and Drew Gooden (foot), and were missing two other players because of injury or illness.
''We definitely had a big discrepancy inside and we tried to exploit it,'' said Utah's Deron Williams, who also scored 22 for the Jazz. ''We ran a lot of plays with Al down low to get him some easy looks.''
Jefferson, brought in primarily to replace departed Carlos Boozer, made it look easy.
He made 11 of 14 shots and grabbed eight defensive rebounds.
Williams was most impressed with the blocks.
''He's giving us a diferent look with blocked shots,'' Williams said. ''Boozer didn't block many shots. He got a lot of steals, but he wasn't a shot-blocker.''
Andrei Kirilenko also had four blocks as the Jazz posted a season-high 10 blocks. The Jazz held a 54-18 advantage in the paint and 48-26 edge in rebounds.
''They were short tonight, but that's a great team,'' Jefferson said of the Bucks (6-11). ''When they're healthy, they'll be really good. That coach (Scott Skiles) makes every team he ever coached play hard and they played hard tonight. We just knew we had to pound the ball inside and hopefully they'd run out of energy.''
Milwaukee, which has now lost nine straight games in Utah, tried to keep it close with an aggressive defense and plenty of 3-point shots.
The Bucks made 10 of 23 3-pointers, and led briefly in the second quarter. An 11-0 Utah run to start the fourth quarter ended any hopes the short-handed Bucks had.
Brandon Jennings led all scorers with 27 points, including four 3-pointers, while Chris Douglas-Roberts scored a season-high 19 points and Ersan Ilyasova a season-high 18.
Williams said the challenge for Utah, which has now won six straight and 14 and its last 17 after opening with consecutive lopsided losses, was as much mental as physical.
''Any time you play a team that's missing a lot of guys, it can be a dangerous game because youo expect to win, you know you should win. But at the same time it's the NBA and these are NBA players,'' Williams said. ''They played hard. They were just a scrappy team tonight.''
No team played with more energy than Utah's second unit, a bright spot all season.
Coach Jerry Sloan even joked before the game that he considered starting the reserves to provide an early spark.
''You've seen the Energizer Bunny,'' Kirilenko said. ''(Earl Watson and Ronnie Price) are our Energizer Bunnies. They come on the floor and give us a big spark on offense and defense. They are amazing.''
Utah's backup guards provided the first-half highlights, Price with a two-handed jam off a steal, and Watson with a block on 5-5 Bucks guard Earl Boykins. Watson also would bank in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Utah a 60-52 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.
''I told (Watson) that was the first block in his career, so I'm gonna say Earl's block was better,'' said Price, who finished with 10 points and three steals in 14 minutes. Watson had season highs in points (12) and rebounds (six).
The reserves also helped key an 11-0 run to open the fourth quarter, pushing Utah's lead to 91-73.
C.J. Miles hit a running jump shot and Francisco Elson followed with a turnaround hook to get the Jazz off and running.
''We hung in there for a while,'' said Skiles, who also was without Carlos Delfino and chose not to play an ill Corey Maggette. ''They took it to us from mid-third quarter on and we had a hard time.''
NOTES: Utah's Kyrylo Fesenko suffered a partial dislocation of his pinky finger in the second quarter, but X-rays were negative. ...The Bucks were held without scoring for the first 4 1/2 minutes of theh fourth quarter. ...The Jazz are now 10-1 when scoring 100 points or better...The Jazz next face an Indiana Pacers team they have beaten four straight times in Salt Lake City.