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SALT LAKE CITY -- Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson combined to tally 35 points and 24 rebounds against the Nets and shut down New Jersey's Robin Lopez in the second half, leading the Jazz to a 98-88 victory Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.
The Jazz struggled to get into any kind of rhythm in the first half, but stayed close with the Nets behind Millsap's 13 first half points. Millsap's aggressive moves in the post earned him six trips to the free throw line for six of his eight first quarter points, giving the Jazz some consistency in an otherwise sloppy start.
Millsap said that despite Utah's sluggish start, ball movement and an effort from every man on the court created opportunities to stabilize some rhythm throughout the game.
Guys were moving, setting screens, and helping each other on offense, and that's what we need.
"We shared the ball. The ball was moving a lot," Millsap said. "Guys were moving, setting screens, and helping each other on offense and that's what we need."
After ending the first quarter down 25-24, the Jazz were boosted by Millsap's five second quarter points and a burst of energy from Jefferson late in the half to take a 53-47 lead into the locker room at the break.
Before hitting three quick shots in the final three minutes of the quarter, Jefferson had posted just two points on a 9-foot jumper in the first minute of the game.
Millsap and Jefferson added three and four points, respectively, in the third quarter, but made their biggest impact on the game in the way they played Lopez on both ends of the floor throughout the second half.
Lopez looked like he might be on his way to a career night in the first half as tallied 17 points and five rebounds, but he was stunted in the third quarter as Millsap and Jefferson buckled down defensively and held him scoreless through 12 minutes on the hardwood.
We knew we had to step up, me and Paul. We knew we had to make a statement tonight on the defensive end...
Offensively, Utah's down-low duo consistently attacked the basket and narrowed the breadth of Lopez's game as he was tagged with his second and third fouls.
"We knew we had to step up, me and Paul. We knew we had to make a statement tonight on the defensive end because (of) their bigs. I think they still out-rebounded us - they're a great rebounding team, especially the bigs - but we knew we had to step up and make their job a little harder," Jefferson said.
Lopez accumulated two more fouls within a minute and a half of each other in the first half of the fourth quarter, and was forced to watch from the sidelines for several minutes as Millsap and Jefferson continued controlling the post.
"(Lopez is) a terrific young player," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "He's able to shoot the ball out on the floor facing up, he can handle the ball around the basket, and he just goes up over the top of you. He's so big and long it's hard to deal with so having him out of the game certainly helped us."
...(Lopez) is hard to deal with so having him out of the game certainly helped us.
Lopez returned to the game for the final time with 3:57 left and was dealt with his sixth foul 25 seconds later as Deron Williams took a hard elbow in the key. Millsap came up with two big rebounds off three-point misses from Devin Harris and Travis Outlaw as the Nets tried to erase their narrow five-point deficit following Lopez's ejection, and the Jazz rolled out the win, extending their record to 8-4.
Millsap finished the night with 19 points and 15 rebounds while Jefferson tallied 16 points and nine boards.