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Williams, Jazz speed past Pistons in second half

Feb 28, 2008 - 6:18 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- It took nearly three quarters, but the Utah Jazz finally found the energy they've been so accustomed to at home. And in doing so, two streaks remained intact on Wednesday night.

Deron Williams brought his team back from the brink of a blowout, registering his 33rd double-double with 14 points and 14 assists as the Jazz rallied for their 15th straight home victory, 103-95 over the Detroit Pistons.

It was Utah's sixth consecutive victory over Detroit, having now swept the season series three years in a row.

Williams teamed up with second-year forward Paul Millsap, who scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half, and a hot-shooting Mehmet Okur as the Jazz erased a sizeable second-half deficit to come away with a victory.

Okur hit three clutch 3-pointers in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, including a back-breaking 25-footer which gave Utah a 97-92 edge with just 51 seconds remaining.

"Obviously, (Okur) just shot the lights out on those 3-point shots when we came down the stretch," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "He was just in a groove. We've seen him do that a number of times. We certainly needed that tonight."

The Turkish center finished with a game-high 24 points.

The Jazz had been trailing the entire game until Millsap's 20-footer gave Utah a short-lived 75-74 edge early in the fourth. The game remained within a few points from there on out.

With less than five minutes remaining, Williams led the Jazz on a fast break, finding a streaking Matt Harpring for a three-point play and a two-point edge.

But despite the monumental shift in momentum, the Pistons hung with the Jazz down to the end. When Okur hit back-to-back 3-pointers, Detroit answered both times to keep pace and keep the game tied. But his fourth and final 3-pointer of the night all but sealed the Utah victory.

"(Okur) got on fire. I started looking for him," Williams said. "I know once Memo hits one or two, especially late in the game, that's his mentality. So, I just tried to keep feeding him."

It was all Detroit for most of the first three quarters, as the Jazz - who were one of the league's hottest teams before losing two of their previous three games - looked sloppy and unusually passive.

"We didn't compete in the first part of the ballgame," Sloan said. "We didn't run the floor. We walked the ball up. We were trying to push the ball up the floor so (the Pistons) couldn't just go back and have all day to do what they wanted to do."

Defensively, they had no answer for the Pistons' backcourt tandem of Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups.

Hamilton's mid-range jumper killed them in the first half, as he connected on 7-of-10 first-half attempts to help Detroit surge to an 18-point advantage in the second quarter.

Once Utah's defense finally put a body on Hamilton, Billups took over, scoring 12 of his 21 in the third.

"This could have been a bad loss for us. We could've lost by 20 or 30 points," Williams said. "That's how it was looking in the first half. I'm definitely glad we came out and stepped it up in the second half."

With his Jazz on the verge of falling out of contention, Williams took control - by necessity as much as anything else.

Outside shots weren't falling - and for that matter, inside shots weren't falling, either. Utah missed three layups within 40 seconds, and the Pistons' defense repeatedly stripped All-Star forward Carlos Boozer of the ball.

And so, with a little help from a pair of second-year players, Williams changed tactics. He drove the lane and buried layups on back-to-back possessions, then knocked down a crucial 3-pointer at the top of the key to bring Utah to within 11.

Moments later, the third-year point guard fed Ronnie Brewer and Millsap for wide-open dunks on consecutive possessions as the Jazz closed the third period on a 15-4 run.

"I was a little tired in the first half, took me a while to get going today," Williams said. "(We) couldn't make a layup. I couldn't get a foul called for me. So, I had to try to do something else. Found my teammates, my teammates were hitting shots for me."

Millsap continued to cause problems for the Pistons' frontcourt down the stretch, displaying some agility under the basket and even a few quick moves on the perimeter. He knocked down a few jumpers, finishing 6-of-7 from the floor, and punished Detroit inside, getting to the line 10 times and knocking down seven foul shots.

"I'm just trying to be me, trying to be aggressive," Millsap said. "(Maxiell and Antonio McDyess) are good defenders. The only thing I tried to do was take it to them, be aggressive, try to get fouls and just try to go strong to the hole."

Hamilton led the Pistons with 22 and Rasheed Wallace finished with 11 points on just 2-of-12 shooting.

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    DETROIT 95
    UTAH 103 FINAL

    Feb 27 11:23 PM
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    Pistons 92, Jazz 97  4th - 0:51Feb 27 11:18 PM
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    Pistons 87, Jazz 86  4th - 3:00Feb 27 11:14 PM
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    Pistons 78, Jazz 77  4th - 6:00Feb 27 11:01 PM

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    DETROIT 71
    UTAH 67 END, 3RD QTR

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    DETROIT 53

    Feb 27 10:01 PM

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    DETROIT 30
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    Pistons vs. JazzFeb 27 7:04 AM