Williams, Jazz continue home dominanceMar 18, 2008 - 4:33 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- On paper, the road to a franchise record was a cakewalk for the Utah Jazz. In reality, the task was easier said than done.
But in the end, though they had to fight for it, the Jazz came away with the record nonetheless, edging the shorthanded Toronto Raptors, 96-79, to tie a franchise record with their 19th consecutive home win.
"It was one of those games where they kept hanging in there and, finally, in the last part of the ballgame, we got a little life," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "This is our fifth game in seven days, so we're a little bit sluggish. They kept hanging in there and, fortunately, we were able to win the game."
Utah's star point guard Deron Williams delivered as usual, scoring a game-high 21 points to pace the Jazz. But it was another, lesser-known point guard who played just as pivotal a role down the stretch as Utah pulled away.
Ronnie Price, a third-year backup from nearby Utah Valley State College, played the first 6 1/2 minutes of the pivotal fourth quarter in Williams' place, spearheading a second unit that exploded for a 24-4 run - snapping a 65-65 tie and turning what looked to be a nailbiter into yet another home blowout for the Jazz.
"Normally, I have a little set schedule of when I'm coming in and when I'm coming out. I looked over my shoulder a few times, because I know that we provide the spark and they come in and finish the job," Price said. "I've been in a shooting slump a little bit. I was just happy that my shot actually felt OK today."
After an uncharacteristically sloppy showing from most of Utah's regulars, Price and the rest of the reserves bailed them out.
On consecutive possessions early in the fourth, Price found Matt Harpring streaking along the baseline for an easy layup, and Korver for a crucial 3-pointer to give the Jazz some much-needed breathing room.
"Our second group just did a great job tonight. They carried us pretty much the whole game, and exploded in the fourth quarter," Williams said. "Kyle was hitting shots, Ronnie was playing great defense and hitting shots and frustrating people out there."
Moments later, it went the other way, with Harpring and Korver finding Price for a pair of lay-ins as Utah's lead suddenly ballooned into double-digits, eventually growing as high as 21.
The sudden offensive outburst was enough to get to Raptors guard T.J. Ford, who was ejected after picking up back-to-back technicals with seven minutes to play in the fourth.
The fourth-year veteran had just picked up two personal fouls in a row and got visibly upset with official Marc Davis, and had to be restrained by teammates before finally being escorted out.
"It was just frustration. The game was tied, they were able to take over the momentum, and we kept trying to fight and fight and fight and things just weren't going our way," Ford said. "I felt like I got fouled a couple times, but the refs thought otherwise. ... I just felt we were right there. We had a couple opportunities, and things just didn't go our way."
By that point, there was little the Raptors could to do reclaim momentum. On the ensuing possession, Andrei Kirilenko knocked down a 3-pointer, increasing the lead to 15. Toronto never got any closer.
Price, who has supplanted Jason Hart as Williams' top backup in recent weeks, finished with 13 points and a team-best five assists.
Not that his fourth-quarter showing was all together new - in fact, he did the same thing in the second quarter.
After the Raptors and Jazz played to a 16-16 tie after one quarter, Price took over in the second, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers and completing a three-point play on a fast break as the Jazz went on a 13-5 run to take control in the second quarter.
While leading scorer Carlos Boozer - who scored 41 in a road loss to New Jersey two nights ago - had a quiet night with just 13 points, Korver chipped in 17 off the bench and Harpring added nine.
The Jazz get a shot to set a new franchise record for consecutive home victories on national television Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.
"We want to keep adding to it," Williams said. "We've got a lot of home games left to finish up the season, and we're gonna try to win them all."
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