for this game

Williams has 20 assists as Jazz down Mavs

Mar 4, 2008 - 6:24 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) - Deron Williams had one less weapon to work with Monday night. But that didn't stop him from having one of the best performances of his career as he led the Utah Jazz one step closer to a club record of their own.

The third-year point guard tied a season-high with 20 assists to go with 17 points as the Jazz won a pivotal Western Conference showdown over the Dallas Mavericks, 116-110, on Monday night.

"It was a great game, another game that felt like a playoff atmosphere," Williams said. "Any time you play a Western Conference opponent, everybody right know is fighting for their lives and fighting for a playoff spot."

After watching the Mavericks erase a 20-point deficit, the Jazz rode a 16-0 fourth-quarter run to rally back for the victory, their 16th straight at home three shy of a team record.

Two nights after dishing out 19 assists in a road win over Memphis, Williams outdid himself, making Dallas ' newly acquired star point guard Jason Kidd look old in the process.

"(Williams) was phenomenal. He got everyone involved," forward Carlos Boozer said. "If you guys have ever played Madden, it's like QB Vision. He has that QB Vision. All you've got to do is get your hands ready, catch it and put it in."

Of course, it didn't hurt that Williams' teammates weren't missing. Jazz All-Stars Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur were a combined 11-for-12 in the first half alone as Utah exploded for a 25-6 lead over the first six minutes of the game.

"We know that Utah comes out at home and tries to knock you out right out of the box," Kidd said. "They kind of had their shootaround in that first quarter."

However, another former All-Star was taken out of the equation early on. Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko one of six Jazz players who average in double-figures in scoring left the floor just five minutes into the first quarter with a right hip injury after being taken down on a flagrant foul by Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki.

"It was a tough situation. He pumped-faked me under the hoop and I left my feet and didn't want to give up the and-1, so I kind of tried to grab him, and unfortunately grabbed him around the neck," Nowitzki said. "Things went so fast, I didn't mean to grab the neck, but I just tried to hold him so he doesn't score. I happened to grab his neck and it was a bad fall."

Kirilenko laid on the ground for several minutes before finally getting up, knocking down a pair of free throws and then getting escorted to the locker room. Initial X-rays were inconclusive, but he was taken to the hospital during the game for further observation.

From then on, Nowitzki, the league's reigning MVP, was loudly booed every time he touched the ball. However, after struggling throughout the first half, Nowitzki came up big down the stretch as the Mavericks methodically marched back from a huge early deficit. His 20-footer at the 7:40 mark of the fourth quarter gave Dallas its first lead of the game at 90-89.

Kidd followed with another long jumper from the top of the key to cap the Mavs' 11-2 run to start the final period.

"I wish we would have held on to that lead. We let that slip away," Williams said. "We knew they were going to make a run, but we should have put them away a little earlier."

But the Jazz answered with 16 straight points to take back control. With the Dallas frontcourt keying on Williams, he drove just inside the paint and kicked it out to the wing for Kyle Korver, who buried his first 3-pointer of the night. The Jazz forced two Nowitzki turnovers in a row and hit seven consecutive free throws to cap the 16-0 spurt.

"That's the mark of a good team," Boozer said of his team's late rally. "The key, I think for us, was us making our free throws...That might have sealed the game for us."

The Mavericks still didn't go away, but it was too little, too late, and Korver hit six foul shots in the final 30 seconds to seal it.

Boozer led all scorers with 28 before fouling out in the last minute of the fourth, while Okur registered a double-double with 20 points and 12 boards.

Josh Howard led the Mavs with 25 and Nowitzki added 23, including 15 in the second half.