for this game

Williams, Jazz continue home dominance

Jan 31, 2008 - 6:39 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- The Utah Jazz answered their worst month of the season with one of their best months in years - and, in doing so, did what no Jazz team had done in nearly a decade.

The NBA's best home club, Utah won its 10th straight home contest and outlasted the visiting New York Knicks, 100-89, on Wednesday night.

"We played well enough to win," Jazz forward Carlos Boozer said. "It wasn't our best basketball, but we're excited with the victory."

The Jazz's 10-game home winning streak is the team's longest since a 10-game stretch during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.

It was business as usual Wednesday night for Utah, which finished 11-2 in January and has won 12 of 14 overall after slumping badly in December.

"We reversed that. We're back at the top of our division, and it feels good to be back on the winning track. But we're not satisfied now. We've got a lot of games to make up for that bad month," Utah guard Deron Williams said. "Whether it's at home or on the road, we feel like we're playing good basketball right now, probably the best basketball we've played all season."

Williams scored 22 points and dished out 12 assists and Boozer added 17 and nine boards as Utah (28-18) kept a one-half game edge on the Denver Nuggets (27-18) and 1 1/2-game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers (26-19) in the tight Northwest Division.

Despite facing a New York club coming off a tough loss in Los Angeles the night before and playing most of the game without starters Eddy Curry and Quentin Richardson, the Jazz had trouble putting much distance between themselves and the Knicks.

Utah scored the first four points of the ballgame and never relinquished the lead, but never stretched into blowout territory, either.

"I felt we could have played better," Williams said. "We had some chances to blow the game open, and we didn't take advantage of that. We stopped defending and took a lot of early shots and didn't run our sets, and that allowed them to get back in the game every time."

Early in the third period, Zach Randolph helped pull the Knicks to within three, doing all of his damage from the foul line. He hit 5-of-6 free throws in a matter of 90 seconds to cut his club's deficit to 57-54.

But Utah did just enough to keep New York at bay.

"We couldn't get over that hump," Randolph said. "But guys played hard. Guys played 48 minutes. We've just got to work on closing out games because we're right there. Any time you're down 10, down nine with five or six minutes to go in Utah, it's pretty good."

Andrei Kirilenko answered the Knicks' surge with a 3-pointer to give the Jazz some breathing room. And then Utah's defense - which had 12 steals on the night after totaling 15 in Monday's win over San Antonio - created some offense itself.

Second-year guard Ronnie Brewer snagged Mardy Collins' pass and found an open Williams downcourt for an easy layup to push the lead to eight.

Moments later, Kirilenko swiped Randolph in the paint, and Boozer finished with an easy runner as the lead ballooned to 64-54.

"We figured out a way to win, and that was on the defensive end. That's help defense," Brewer said. "Our big guys are helping, our guards are being aggressive and trying to get steals and deflections."

New York consistently pulled to within striking distance, but it was never close enough. The Knicks got as close as seven in the final period but went cold in the closing minutes.

"We just ran out of gas, and I thought that was a big reason for the missed free throws and turnovers," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "At the end, we just got a little fatigued."

Curry, the Knicks' third-leading scorer at 14.2 points, left the game just four minutes into the game with flu-like symptoms and didn't return. Richardson left for the same reason just a couple of minutes later.

Jamal Crawford and Randolph provided enough offense in their place, combining for 49 points, but the team as a whole was slopping, turning the ball over 19 times, leading to 29 points by Utah.

Mehmet Okur had a double-double for the Jazz with 12 points and 11 boards, but was just 5-of-17 from the field.

David Lee was an efficient 7-of-10 for the Knicks, scoring 14 points to go with 12 rebounds.

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