Portland, Ore. » There was no way it was going to be as easy for the Jazz as it appeared in the opening six minutes of Wednesday's game, when it seemed they were going to deal the Portland Trail Blazers an 80-point loss as part of 80's throwback night.
The Jazz undressed the Blazers -- sorry, Greg Oden -- in storming to leads of 12-0 and 21-2 and needed every bit of their fast start to hold on for a 106-95 victory at the Rose Garden as Portland closed within five points twice in the fourth quarter.
"I thought it was our best start of the season, by far, especially on the road to come out like that," said Deron Williams, who led with 24 points, seven assists and five rebounds as the Jazz won their fourth straight and improved to 8-1 in their last nine games.
"We just had a lot of energy. It's just something we were lacking early in the season when we get on the road is that energy. Just attacking people like we're at home, and I thought we did that tonight."
Even as they continued surging up the standings, the Jazz lost Carlos Boozer to a strained right calf in the third quarter. Boozer didn't return to the game and is scheduled to visit the doctor and undergo an MRI exam today.
Not only did they move a game ahead of the Blazers in the Northwest Division, the Jazz now own a 2-0 lead in the season series. They had dropped six consecutive games in Portland, last winning April 1, 2006.
The Jazz (27-18) will have to play Friday against visiting Sacramento without Williams, who will miss the game to attend a funeral in West Virginia.
Kyle Korver had 16 points off the bench, including four three-pointers, the last of which finished off the Blazers with 53.9 seconds remaining. Paul Millsap had 15 points and 12 rebounds and got the roll on a 20-footer with 2:28 left to make it 98-88.
"It was a good thing we built that lead because we had them playing uphill the whole rest of the game," Williams said. "We knew they were going to make a run, they're a good team. We just had to withstand that and we got stops down the stretch when we needed to."
Korver said his last three-pointer marked a significant step in his return from knee surgery as he spun left in hitting it. "I've been like Ben Stiller on 'Zoolander' for like three months," he said. "I'm all rights. So I turned left on that one and I was able to hit it."
The Jazz led by as many as 26 with four minutes left in the second quarter, but took just a 63-46 lead into halftime. Not even five minutes into the second half, Williams headed to the bench with his fourth foul and Boozer headed to the locker room injured.
Boozer appeared to strain his calf taking out the ball after LaMarcus Aldridge's turnaround jumper. The former All-Star forward had 14 points in the first half and has played in all 45 games this season.
Williams was called for a technical by referee Ken Mauer for arguing the offensive foul that sent him to the bench with 7:25 left. The Blazers closed within seven after back-to-back three-pointers by Martell Webster, but the Jazz went into the fourth leading 85-75.
In the fourth, Rudy Fernandez's two free throws with 7:24 to play brought Portland within five at 89-84. Korver quieted the crowd with a three-pointer and Williams later answered an Aldridge jumper with one of his own after the Blazers made it 93-88.
It was the first quarter, though, that doomed the Blazers. They got off to a nightmare start playing without Brandon Roy, making just one of their first 16 shots before Nicolas Batum followed up an Aldridge miss with a dunk.
The Jazz led 36-16 after the first quarter, with Williams pushing the ball, Boozer and Mehmet Okur frustrating Aldridge, Andrei Kirilenko picking off passes and getting behind the defense for dunks and layups and the Blazers committing five fouls in the first 4:35.
"Usually the law of averages will catch up with you a little bit," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "The way we started, you would expect them to come back in the ball game. Fortunately, we were able to weather that a little bit and make a couple shots."
From what we've seen this season, it's almost incomprehensible that Wesley Matthews went undrafted out of Marquette. He has NBA ability as far as shooting and defense and has carried himself like anything but a rookie.
IN SHORT » The Jazz need every bit of their fast start and 26-point first-half lead to hold on and beat the Trail Blazers.
KEY MOMENT » Kyle Korver hits the last of four three-pointers to make it 101-90.