By JEFF MEZYDLO
Posted Dec 16 2009 12:02AM
Facing the New Jersey Nets might be the ideal way for the Utah Jazz to open a season-long, five-game road trip on a positive note.
The Jazz look to rebound from a frustrating home loss to one of the NBA's worst teams by visiting another in the lowly Nets on Wednesday night.
Trying for a third straight victory, Utah (14-10) looked sluggish and even overmatched at times in a 110-108 loss to Minnesota on Monday night. The Jazz have been responsible for two of the Timberwolves' four victories this season.
Though the Jazz shot 50.6 percent from the field, they were 21 of 37 from the free-throw line and outrebounded 48-36 to conclude a 2-1 homestand that was highlighted by a 102-94 win over the Los Angeles Lakers two nights earlier.
"Any time those kinds of things happen it doesn't matter what color the uniform is, you're going to get beat," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.
The Jazz have a chance to improve in both areas when they face the Nets (2-23), who have lost four in a row after winning two of three. While Utah is 3-6 on the road and trying to avoid a third straight loss away from home, New Jersey is 1-8 and averaging 88.3 points per game on its home floor.
With stops at Atlanta, Orlando and Miami, the trip gets more difficult after this contest for Utah, averaging 101.4 points overall, but 94.9 on the road. That makes taking advantage of a struggling opponent to open the swing even more important.
Another big game from point guard Deron Williams would help accomplish that.
Williams scored a season-high 38 points and added 13 assists against Minnesota. He's averaging 30.3 points and 13.0 assists in his last three games, and has posted three consecutive double-doubles against New Jersey.
Carlos Boozer, averaging 20.1 points and 11.1 boards on the season, missed both games last season against the Nets due to injury, but scored 41 in a 117-115 loss in his last trip to New Jersey on March 15, 2008.
Utah snapped a five-game road losing streak to the Nets with a 103-92 victory in the teams' most recent meeting Dec. 17.
New Jersey's Devin Harris had 22 points before he was ejected in the fourth quarter for a flagrant foul on Cleveland's Jamario Moon in Tuesday's 99-89 road loss to the Cavaliers.
Brook Lopez added 22 with 15 rebounds, but the Nets shot 39.0 percent on another frustrating night for a team that opened the season with an NBA-record 18 straight losses.
Lopez (19.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg) and Harris (17.3 ppg) have tried but been unable to carry the injury-plagued Nets, who will likely be without Chris Douglas-Roberts (16.2 ppg) for a third straight game with a sprained left knee.
"You don't see the benefits of it on the scoreboard,'' Lopez said. "We didn't close out (against Cleveland). We're getting there, as tough as it is to hear, game in and game out.''
Harris is averaging 20.5 points in his last four games and 24.7 with 9.7 assists in his last three against the Jazz.