ATLANTA (AP) -- With Utah's lead still close, Deron Williams was
already watching the scoreboard for other Western Conference teams.
"I knew the Kings were losing and the Lakers were winning,"
Williams said after the Jazz beat the Atlanta Hawks 111-101 Friday
night. "We've got to check on that stuff. It's important."
Williams kept enough focus on his game to score a career-high 28
points as Utah continued its mastery of Atlanta and stayed close in
the playoff race.
The news after the game was even better than Williams expected.
The Jazz gained ground on both the Kings and Lakers, who began the
night three games ahead of Utah in the race for the last playoff
spot in the conference. Indiana beat Sacramento and Los Angeles
lost at New Jersey, leaving Utah two games from eighth place.
Williams, a rookie from Illinois who was averaging 9.8 points
per game, made four 3-pointers and helped keep the Atlanta defense
from collapsing on Mehmet Okur, who had 24 points, and Carlos
Boozer, who added 21.
"He played well," Atlanta's Al Harrington said of Williams.
"He got all the big shots."
Williams' previous career high was 24 points twice, most
recently March 8 against Minnesota. He had scored in single figures
in three straight games, shooting a combined 7-for-25, but he
showed no signs of a slump against the Hawks. Williams was
11-for-13, including 4-for-4 on 3-pointers.
"He played extremely well," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said.
"He didn't play like a rookie."
Utah snapped a three-game losing streak and gave the Hawks their
fourth straight loss.
"We needed a win," Williams said. "We're trying to leave this
road trip 2-2. We didn't do too well in the state of Florida."
The Jazz lost at Miami and Orlando before visiting Atlanta, and
they end the road trip at Memphis on Sunday.
Utah has won seven straight games over the Hawks, including only
two by fewer than 12 points. Utah beat the Hawks 95-83 in Salt Lake
City on Dec. 7, but the Hawks stayed a little closer this time. The
final deficit was Utah's big lead of the game.
Utah led 91-89 when coach Jerry Sloan called a timeout with 8:06
left to play. The Jazz immediately returned to their effective
inside game with a basket by Boozer, and the Hawks got no closer
than five points of the lead in the final 4 minutes.
Utah outscored Atlanta 54-40 in the paint, a less dominant
imbalance than in the December game when the Jazz had a 52-16
"We gave up 25 to 30 layups tonight," Woodson said. "You
wonder how you're even in the game. We're scoring enough points.
We're just not making a commitment on the other end."
Despite trailing 55-54 at halftime, Atlanta stayed close with
balanced scoring, led by Joe Johnson's 27 points. Harrington had 19
points, Josh Smith scored 18 and Zaza Pachulia added 17 points and
"It was pretty much like a shootout," Harrington said. "We
never had two stops in a row."
"When we started the ball game it looked like a lay-up drill,
the way they drove around us and over the top of the basket,"
Sloan said. "For some reason this lineup hasn't been real
productive on the defensive end of the floor."
But the Jazz had more than enough offense to answer the
Utah was held under 90 points in three of its last four losses
and is only 3-11 on the road this season when scoring in the 80s.
The Jazz hit that mark in only three periods Friday night, taking
an 85-78 lead into the final period.
Okur was the major reason for the offensive resurgence. Okur
made 6 of 6 shots while scoring 13 points in the second period.
Hawks G Josh Childress returned after missing five games
with a sprained ankle. ... The Hawks' last win over the Jazz came
on Oct. 31, 2002. ... Andrei Kirilenko had 18 points, including 11
in the first period, for Utah. ... The teams combined to make 8 of
11 3-point shots in the opening period.