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ATLANTA - Maybe you can't win games in the first quarter. But the Jazz are beginning to wonder if you can lose them.
Poor starts have become a bad habit lately for Utah, and it's making life much more difficult at the end. Orlando outscored the Jazz 23-14 in the first quarter on Wednesday, the third straight game Utah has begun by building a deficit. In fact, the Jazz have taken a lead into the second quarter only once in their last six games.
Even worse, said Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, the first quarter has set a woe-is-me tone that has carried over for much of the game. The worst example was Tuesday's 41-14 disaster in Miami, but it's not the only time, Kirilenko said.
"We have to not let teams intimidate us in the first quarter like Miami did and Orlando did," the Jazz's co-captain said.
The Jazz actually have a decent track record of second-half rallies - they have won 12 games they trailed at halftime, and they own nine fourth-quarter comeback victories - but playing from behind takes a toll.
"You have to keep chasing and chasing," Kirilenko said. "Finally in the fourth quarter, when you've got them, you have no energy."
The Jazz started relatively well in Orlando, with one notable problem: They couldn't make the easiest shots. Six layups banged off the rim, creating a deficit that shouldn't have existed.
"For some reason we can't finish around the basket," coach Jerry Sloan said. "That's critical to winning ballgames. If you can't do that, you're really going to have to play catch-up."
Forward Matt Harpring has rented out a suite in Philips Arena tonight to accomodate several of the 60 or so guests and family members he expects to attend the game in his hometown. He also has been scrounging tickets from teammates (each player is allotted two free tickets to every game) for several days, and said his father bought another handful to distribute to friends and former teammates. . . . Carlos Boozer will make his second straight start tonight, though he may match up against 6-foot-9 forward Al Harrington rather than 6-11 center Zaza Pachulia. "Starting again is definitely something I have looked forward to," Boozer said of his promotion into the lineup on Wednesday. . . . Center James Lang, cut by the Jazz in training camp, has been on the Hawks' roster since being signed out of the D League two weeks ago.