Williams carries the Jazz past fesity KingsFeb 7, 2009 - 7:13 AM SACRAMENTO, California (Ticker) -- Deron Williams helped finish off a grueling, physical battle in appropriate style.
With 20 seconds remaining Friday night, the fourth-year point guard threw his body into the lane, attacked the rim and buried the go-ahead layup to help lift the Utah Jazz to a 111-107 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
Williams took control of Utah's offense, scoring 34 points as the Jazz erased a big halftime deficit to come away with their third victory in a row.
They did it in a fashion long extolled by head coach Jerry Sloan - namely, physicality. After falling behind by 10 at the half, the Jazz came out aggressive in the second half, with Williams and company repeatedly putting the ball on the floor and pushing it into the paint.
"Right now, I've got to step up for my team," Williams said. "I feel like I'm getting closer to 100 percent. I need to step up and score more and be more aggressive and more assertive from the start. People feed off my energy and I've got to realize that every night and step up to that challenge."
The Kings were no match.
Their athleticism, however, kept them in it right until the end. Kevin Martin's driving layup with 55 seconds on the clock gave Sacramento a 105-102 lead, which was immediately erased on Mehmet Okur's 3-pointer on the other end. After Williams' bucket, Martin had a chance to tie things back up but misfired on an off-balance runner and Williams iced the game at the line.
After the Kings took a 55-45 lead into the locker rooms, the Jazz took their time getting back into it. There was no furious rally that put them in the driver's seat for good. Instead, they simply enforced their will physically - putting Sacramento into the penalty just 3 1/2 minutes into the third.
Ronnie Brewer buried a layup, drew contact and completed the three-point play just 27 seconds into the second half, and that essentially set the tone for the rest of the night. The Jazz got to the line on four straight possessions at one point to cut their deficit to three.
"Just our energy picked up in the second half," Williams said. "Our defense was better - our zone definitely helped out. We rotated well, got to their shooters and forced them to take some tough shots. That's the ballgame. When we play defense well, we win."
They finally pulled ahead as Matt Harpring hit a short runner and knocked down the ensuing free throw to make it a 68-67 game. Sacramento refused to wilt, trying to match Utah's aggressiveness in a battle that became more and more physical as the game wore on - and more heated, as both clubs seemed frustrated by the tight officiating at times.
"It's disappointing we can't get the win," Kings forward John Salmons said. "We played hard, we played well. Some calls didn't go our way down the stretch."
The fourth quarter went back and forth, as Martin took the reins for the Kings, scoring 19 of his 37 points in the period. In the end, though, it came down to Williams, as he teamed with one of his only remaining scoring threats - center Mehmet Okur - to carry the load during the game's decisive final minutes.
"We talked about attacking the rim (at halftime)," Okur said. "We came out there in the second half, really attacked the rim and we were able to get to the free-throw line. We really shared the ball so it was a fun game for us."
The two scored 15 straight points for Utah to keep the Jazz afloat even after it appeared the Kings had seized momentum in front of a raucous sellout crowd buoyed by the emotional frenzy of the halftime ceremony, during which Chris Webber's No. 4 was retired.
Williams, who surpassed the 30-point mark for the third straight game, had a pair of three-point plays late in the fourth to give the Jazz a 102-97 lead.
"(Deron) made some great plays and was able to get on top of the basket," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "He put the ballgame in his hands and made some terrific plays. The last two or three games he has really been alive."
The Kings responded with an 8-0 run to take a three-point lead, but Okur's three - his only one of the night - brought Utah back for good.
"We had our opportunities in the game but Deron Williams just decided he wouldn't let it happen," Kings interim coach Kenny Natt said. "He turned it up another notch on us. He had two or three three-point plays there in the fourth quarter and that really set us back."
Okur posted 28 points and 11 boards for the Jazz, who avoided another embarrassing road loss and improved to a lackluster 9-16 away from home. Still without injured forwards Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko, the Jazz also got little offensive production from Paul Millsap, who battled first-half foul trouble and finished with just two points and eight boards.
"We've just got to realize we're a good team," Williams said. "We're in eighth place, we've just got to win ballgames. It's the second half of the season, crucial part of the season. If we can go on a little run right before the All-Star break, hopefully we can build on that when we get (Boozer) and (Kirilenko) back, because those guys will be back soon."
SACRAMENTO 107 FINAL
Feb 7 12:56 AM
SACRAMENTO 77 END, 3RD QTR
Feb 7 12:16 AM
SACRAMENTO 55 HALFTIME
Feb 6 11:10 PM
SACRAMENTO 25 END, 1ST QTR
Feb 6 10:38 PM
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