View Full Version : Once-peaking Jazz again in valley

01-17-2007, 09:06 AM
By Jim Halley, USA TODAY

The Utah Jazz were one of the better teams in the NBA the last two seasons — through mid-November. Each time, injuries took hold and the Jazz plummeted back to mediocrity.

Two seasons ago, the Jazz began the season 6-1 before Andrei Kirilenko injured his knee. Because of injuries to several players, including Kirilenko (41 games lost) and Carlos Boozer (out 31 games), the Jazz went through two nine-game losing streaks and one six-game losing skid and finished the season 26-56.

Last season, the Jazz began the year 4-2 with Boozer on the injury list, but his loss for 49 games and another 45 games missed by guard Gordan Giricek took its toll. Kirilenko missed 13 games, but had his best season. There were times when Kirilenko, Boozer and Mehmet Okur combined to be the best scoring trio in the league and the team finished 41-41.

The Jazz began this season 12-1. And while Utah still leads the Northwest Division at 24-14 and has been injury-free, the Jazz lost their fourth consecutive game on Monday. After the fast start, there appear to be some kinks in Utah's armor. The league's top scoring guards have devoured the Jazz.

•On Friday, Ray Allen had a career-high 54 points as Seattle beat Utah 122-114.

•On Monday, Gilbert Arenas dropped in 51 against the Jazz, including a game-winning three-pointer in a 114-111 Washington victory.

•On Nov. 30, Kobe Bryant scored 52 against the Jazz, including 30 in the third quarter, to lead a 132-102 rout for the Los Angeles Lakers.

•On Nov. 11, the Jazz gave up a career-high 57 points to Milwaukee's Michael Redd, but won 113-111.

"I don't know what more you can say," says Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "We don't have an answer for the guys who can get their body on you and get to the free throw line."

Kirilenko, known for his ability to fill up a stat sheet, has been in a season-long slump. Though he's played every game, he's averaging a career-low 9.1 points per game and his steals, blocks, assists, rebounds and shooting percentages are all down from last season.

Over the past five games the Jazz have given up 107.2 points a contest, nearly six above their season average.

"We have to do a better job on the defensive end," says Okur. "You look at the last four games, especially Washington and against Miami (a 119-110 loss in Salt Lake City), and those are winnable games. We have to fix our defensive end. We have to play more active, especially on the road."

The team's inexperience is also a concern. The four Jazz playing the most minutes per game are all 25 or younger and only two players —Derek Fisher, in his 10th year, and Matt Harpring, in his eighth — have played more than five seasons.

Deron Williams, Utah's 22-year-old point guard, sees another problem. "I don't think you can blame it on (inexperience). I think it is more discipline," he says. "You have to stay with what works for you and not be selfish, stop worrying about who's going to get the glory and just go out there and play."

Utah will have to get back on track on the road, beginning tonight at Detroit. The Jazz then have back-to-back games at Toronto on Friday and at Chicago Saturday.

01-17-2007, 10:18 AM
who were the people around here saying that the jazz are elite? i cant remember who it was but there was one person in particular