SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Deron Williams figures he’ll eventually get a triple-double. For now, he’s more excited about the improvement the Utah Jazz have shown after a pair of ugly losses to start the season.
“We’re getting out and running more, pushing the ball and getting easy looks,” Williams said. “A lot of it just comes from energy and intensity, especially in the first half tonight.”
Williams came within two rebounds of a triple-double as the Jazz rolled to a 125-108 victory Wednesday night over the Toronto Raptors.
“D-Will is D-Will,” teammate Al Jefferson said of the All-Star guard. “He’s amazing. He gets guys involved.”
He’s also willing to pick up the slack where it’s needed.
“I really wasn’t focused on trying to get rebounds. I was trying to keep (Reggie) Evans off the boards,” Jefferson said. “I think I did a pretty good job, but D-Will came in and helped out.”
Williams finished with 22 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds. Jefferson led the Jazz with 27 points and Paul Millsap added 21 in Utah’s 11th straight victory over Toronto.
Utah (2-2) gave up the first basket, then scored the next 17 points, and also went on another 8-0 tear en route to a 41-22 first-quarter lead. Utah led 66-47 at halftime.
In the third, Toronto fought back, outscoring Utah 37-25, and pulled within a point behind the scoring of Andrea Bargnani (26 points), Jarrett Jack (14) and DeMar DeRozan (16).
But C.J. Miles (19 points) stopped the momentum with a buzzer-beating 3-point bank shot to end the quarter, then drained another early in the fourth to push Utah’s lead back to double digits.
“C.J. made those shots that were heartbreakers for the other team and certainly warmed our hearts when they went in,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “It was really refreshing.”
Miles called the bank shot more luck than skill, but said he felt comfortable coming off the bench.
“I know what’s going on, so I should be able to come in and make an immediate impact,” Miles said. “That’s the role Coach put me in and we talked about it. If I can change the game, I’m going to do it.”
The Jazz weren’t surprised Toronto made a game of it.
“Any time you get up 20 on a team in the first half, it’s hard to sustain because teams will make a run,” Williams said. “But the most important thing is we were able to get the lead back up to 20.”
Bargnani couldn’t explain the slow start, but said the way Utah pressed the ball didn’t help.
“We were too soft and allowed them to do what they wanted,” Bargnani said.
That was just fine by Jefferson, who was having more fun than he ever had in Minnesota.
“It’s only going to get better,” Jefferson promised, noting that there is still much to Utah’s offense that he is learning.
He and Millsap showed fine chemistry as they got the pick-and-roll working early. The duo dominated inside, with Utah holding a 64-46 advantage in the paint.
“That’s my brother from another mother,” Jefferson joked about Millsap. “When I saw him limping off the court (in the third quarter), it took everything out of me. When I (saw) him come back, I knew it was back on.”
Millsap suffered a mild ankle sprain but finished the game, much to the delight of the crowd.
“We owed them,” Jefferson said of the fans. “We didn’t perform in the home opener. Our fans are too good to come out and play the way we did. We knew we could bounce back and we did.”
Notes: Sloan is now just four wins away from surpassing Pat Riley to become the third all-time winningest coach in the NBA. …The Jazz were without reserve center Kyrylo Fesenko (gastric distress) and Jeremy Evans (sprained right wrist). …Toronto made just 3-of-13 3-pointers. … The Raptors finished at 45.6 percent shooting but started just 6 of 18.