Jazz look to recover on road
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By this point, it has become a certifiable part of their identity. Not only have the Jazz struggled to win on the road the past three seasons, they're prone to suffering inexplicable losses at seemingly the least opportune times.

Their cross-country flight Tuesday to open their annual pre-Christmas trip tonight against the New Jersey Nets was made even longer by a mystifying 110-108 sendoff loss to the 4-21 Minnesota Timberwolves the night before.

The Jazz will close December with seven of their next eight games on the road -- where they have gone just 3-6 this season and 35-56 the last three seasons -- and hope to come up with answers about their very nature as a team.

"How come we can't get up for Minnesota but we can get up for everybody else?" Carlos Boozer asked after Monday's loss. "But we'll fix it. We've got to have a short memory.

"You all know how the NBA is, man. You have games like this where you don't play so well as a group, you've got to forget about it fast because ain't nobody else is going to feel sorry for you, so you can't feel sorry for yourself."

It was just the latest loss to one of the NBA's bottom feeders in recent seasons, losses that have dearly cost the Jazz.

They finished eighth in the Western Conference last season in no small part because of home losses to the Wolves and a seven-man Golden State team in April. The Jazz also were beaten by 21 on the road by Oklahoma City in mid-January.

Even in winning 54 games in the 2007-08 season, the Jazz lost twice on the road to Sacramento, twice to the Wolves and once to the L.A. Clippers. After twice being stunned by Minnesota this season, the Jazz are now 1-4 in the Northwest Division.

"We've got a big trip coming up, but we can get back in this thing or not," Boozer said. "It's in our hands."

The Jazz had won 10 of 13 and beaten three title contenders in a six-day span before Monday's loss. As Deron Williams noted afterward, "It's not the end of the world," but the newly named Western Conference Player of the Week also voiced his frustration.

"We just had a great week and we seemed to lose another bad one," Williams said.

Given their struggles against Minnesota, the Jazz can take nothing for granted tonight against a Nets team that made history by losing its first 18 games to start the season. The Nets are 2-23 after Tuesday's loss against Cleveland.

Boozer noted the Jazz's recent struggles in New Jersey -- they beat the Nets on the road last December for the first time in six seasons -- but the need for the Jazz to focus on themselves, rather than their upcoming opponents.

"The most important thing is we get our swag back, get back on track," Boozer said. "We just had a phenomenal week and started this week off not the way we wanted to. The great thing about this league, though, is we get a chance to play [tonight]."

Part of the Jazz's problem Monday could be attributed to their changing lineup. Kyle Korver, Andrei Kirilenko and Kyrylo Fesenko each returned to action after a significant layoff. Korver played 13 minutes, Kirilenko 15 and Fesenko 8.

Korver saw his first action of the season after undergoing left knee surgery Oct. 28. Kirilenko returned after missing five games with a strained back. Fesenko hadn't played since Nov. 30. All three played together for a stretch in each half.

"That didn't help us a lot," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said, "but I've got to try to find minutes for some of these guys to see where they are."

"It's going to be some time here, some time there, and we just have to adjust to that," Korver added.

Briefly » After driving for the winning layup in the final seconds Monday, Minnesota rookie Jonny Flynn paid Williams a compliment, calling Williams "the toughest point guard I've played," and adding he'd played against Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Baron Davis.

"He's the total package," Flynn said of Williams. "Strong, great handle, can shoot the ball, come off screens like a two-guard and post like Al Jefferson. He has the total package, and he's a hell of a player."

rsiler@sltrib.com

Jazz at Nets

At Izod Center, East Rutherford, N.J.

Time » Today, 5:30 p.m.

TV » FSN Utah

Radio » 1320 AM, 98.7 FM

Records » Jazz 14-10; New Jersey 2-23

Last meeting » Jazz, 103-92 (Dec. 17, 2008)

Line » Jazz by 6

About the Jazz » Deron Williams has totaled 91 points and 39 assists the last three games, good for averages of 30.3 points and 13 assists. Williams scored a season-high 38 points in Monday's loss to Minnesota. ... The Jazz will look to improve on the 21-for-37 they shot at the foul line against the Timberwolves. ... Wesley Matthews and Nets rookie Terrence Williams faced each other six times in their Big East college careers.

About the Nets » Kiki Vandeweghe has gone 2-4 since taking over as interim coach after the Nets fired Lawrence Frank. ... Brook Lopez went into Tuesday's game against Cleveland averaging 19.5 points to lead all NBA centers in scoring. ... The Nets have used 11 different starting lineups already this season. ... New Jersey gave up 130 points in a 23-point loss to Atlanta on Sunday.

Road trip

This year's version of the Jazz's annual pre-Christmas road trip includes:

DateOpponentTime
TodayNew Jersey5:30 p.m.
FridayAtlanta5:30 p.m.
SaturdayCharlotte5 p.m.
MondayOrlando5 p.m.
Dec. 23Miami5:30 p.m.

Note: All games televised on FSN Utah

Jazz at Nets

At Izod Center, East Rutherford, N.J.

Today, 5:30 p.m.

TV » FSN Utah