As Carlos Boozer limped off the court and to the locker room, Jazz fans must have believed that there was some curse upon them. Earlier, Andrei Kirilenko had taken a shot to the chest, but when he'd doubled over in pain, there were fears that things might have been worse. Now, their big man had to leave with a strained quadriceps. You almost couldn't have faulted the Jazz for folding under the mountain of injuries they've sustained. And yet, they made sure to put the Bucks away.
This season, the Utah Jazz might as well be auditioning for ER rather than masquerading as a basketball team. Over half the team is dealing with some kind of injury. They've had to use several different starting lineups and call on some fairly unused players to play major minutes, from underused players like CJ Miles to rookie Kosta Koufos. And each has come in to do everything that was asked of them.
The team is buying into Jerry Sloan's mantra. Be ready to play when your number is called; come in and play hard.
At the start of tonight's game, Ronnie Price was the only legitimate point guard available on the Jazz roster, and he's more comfortable in a shooting guard role. Brevin Knight sat out with a groin injury and Deron Williams still wasn't ready to play again from the injury that has cost him the majority of the season to date. The only players to back him up were CJ Miles and Andrei Kirilenko, both of whom sparingly played point during the preseason.
If Ronnie was worried, you wouldn't have known it. He dictated the offense smoothly as the Jazz built a lead, eventually leading 45-30. Between Price, Miles, and Kirilenko, they knifed through the Bucks like they were carving a Thanksgiving turkey.
Then, for a stretch from halfway through the second to midway through the third, the Jazz hit a cold spell. Milwaukee took advantage, draining away a 15-point deficit and turning it into a 10-point lead at 71-61. It looked like things were finally catching up with them.
But, this Jazz team doesn't lose at home. Injuries or cold shooting can't keep them down. They turned up the defensive intensity, frustrating Milwaukee at times. In the end, the Jazz had 11 steals and 10 blocks. They held the Bucks to 18 points in the fourth.
So, how do the Jazz keep doing this? For starters, CJ Miles is taking the scoring load. For the second straight game, he's scored 20+; this time with 25. He shot 50 percent from the floor and was seven-for-eight from the free-throw line.
Andrei Kirilenko has been the all-around player the Jazz wanted from him the last few seasons. He also shot 50 percent and was 10-for-12 from the line as he had 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists, five steals, and four blocked shots.
Ronnie Price also played nearly the whole game. He recorded 40 minutes and also shot efficiently with 16 points and six assists. Boozer, before leaving, had a double-double. The Jazz bench once again outscored their counterparts.
Milwaukee got 25 from Richard Jefferson and former Utah Ute Andrew Bogut chipped in 16, while nabbing a mind-boggling 20 boards. But, the Bucks couldn't overcome 17 turnovers or the Jazz's surges. The Jazz shot 51.4 percent as a group.
Next up for the Jazz is a road game in San Antonio, where they haven't won since '99. If Boozer can't go, another loss may just be in the making.