Jazz start road trip perfectly
Jazz 108, Nets 92 » Utah bounces back from Minnesota loss with an easy win at New Jersey.
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As long as they could make it out of the Meadowlands with a victory over the 2-23 New Jersey Nets and without any talk of players opting out of contracts and getting a raise regardless, the Jazz could consider Wednesday night a success.

They ended up enjoying one of their easiest nights on the road in recent seasons, cruising to a 108-92 victory over the hopeless Nets at Izod Center, winning all four quarters in the opener of their five-game pre-Christmas trip.

Not that the Jazz took anything for granted, even against a Nets team that made history by losing its first 18 games this season. Not after losing twice to the four-win Minnesota Timberwolves in the past two weeks.

"These are hard games to play," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "You're coming out and they've only won a couple games and you don't know what to expect."

"I think we learned our lesson with Minnesota," Carlos Boozer added. "This game was a good jump start for us on this trip and carry this over to the next one."

There were positives all around for the Jazz, who improved to 4-6 on the road. Deron Williams finished with 20 points and 14 assists, outplaying Nets guard Devin Harris, who had nine points and six assists while going 1-for-9 from the field.

Harris came into Wednesday averaging 17.3 points a game. Williams is now averaging 25.3 points and 13.3 assists in the last four games and bounced back after a brief scare involving his left knee in the first quarter.

Williams came down on Brook Lopez's foot after trying to deflect a pass and called for a sub immediately. He left the bench briefly before returning, came back in the second quarter and played 36 minutes in all.

"It kind of went out and sent like a shock down my leg," Williams said. "It was hurting for a minute and then I went back and just walked it off and it seemed like it was fine after that."

Lopez, meanwhile, led the Nets with 23 points and 10 rebounds. He went 5-for-5 in the first quarter off an array of hook shots and alley-oop dunks, but was just 4-for-13 the rest of the way, with Kyrylo Fesenko battling him off the bench in the second quarter.

"We've got to see if we can get him some more playing time," Sloan said of Fesenko, who finished with six points and five rebounds, "because I think he needs to play more to keep his enthusiasm up, hopefully."

The Jazz saw their 18-point lead in the fourth quarter trimmed to 92-84 after a three-point play by Lopez with 5:50 remaining. Yet they closed the game on a 16-8 run, even after the Nets switched into a zone defense midway through the quarter.

"We're getting better at it," Boozer said. "We saw it early in the season, I'm sure we'll see it a lot more later on. We felt like if we moved the ball and move our bodies, we'll get something, and we just ended up getting a lot of layups, so we just took it."

Boozer returned to the scene of his infamous comments last season to an ESPN.com reporter about planning to opt out of his contract and get a raise in free agency. He finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds while hitting 10 of 14 shots.

The Jazz closed the first half on a 19-8 run and took a 52-41 lead into the locker room after a Williams' three-pointer. The Nets shot 6-for-21 (28.6 percent) in the quarter after a fast start, with Lopez and Harris going a combined 0-for-7.

For all the talk of Russian billionaire owners, Brooklyn arenas, LeBron James dreams and No. 1 draft picks, the Nets were a team Wednesday that went 2-for-13 from three-point range and lost for the 24th time in 26 games.

"You find out if you really like basketball," Sloan said of the Nets' plight, referencing his own experience playing for the expansion Chicago Bulls.

"They've got a couple nice players to build around. If they continue to play hard and work at it, then they'll get better. And it's a tough struggle sometimes."

rsiler@sltrib.com

Storylines

IN SHORT » The Jazz open their five-game pre-Christmas trip with a cruise-control victory over the Nets.

KEY STAT » Deron Williams has totaled 101 points and 53 assists in the last four games.