Jazz win one for Larry, top Hornets

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SALT LAKE CITY -- On a night he had 13 assists, Deron Williams' most memorable pass came after the final buzzer.

Williams walked across the court after Utah's 102-88 win over New Orleans and handed the game ball to Gail Miller, the wife of owner Larry H. Miller one day after his death.

From the pregame moment of silence on, there was no doubt that this one was for Larry.

"It's great to win on a night like this. We wanted to win for Larry and the whole Miller family," said Williams, who scored 20 points for Utah. "They're going through a tough time and hopefully this can ease their pain just a little bit for one night."

Miller, 64, died Friday of complications from diabetes. His usual courtside seat remained empty Saturday night, a noticeable reminder on a night full of gestures in Miller's memory. A short video tribute was shown before the moment of silence and a lone spotlight shined down on the empty blue chair across from the visitors' bench.

"Sometimes emotions and everything get involved and everybody handles it a little differently. We made it through a tough time today," said Utah's Jerry Sloan, who was promoted from assistant to coach by Miller in 1988. "Regardless of what happens day-to-day, you still have a job to do. And in respect to Larry Miller and his family, that's what we were supposed to do."

Mehmet Okur scored 25 and Paul Millsap had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Utah, which will wear patches with the initials LHM for the rest of the season.

Miller owned the Jazz for nearly 25 years, starting with a 50 percent share in the team in 1985 and buying the rest a year later. He was twice credited with keeping the team from leaving his hometown, where his funeral is scheduled for Feb. 28 at EnergySolutions Arena.

"It's kind of a somber moment, but if we can lighten the day by a win, hopefully we did," forward Matt Harpring said. "The great thing about Larry is he cared about winning. That's nice to have."

The Jazz won their fourth straight and improved to 10 games above .500 for the first time this season, staying among the contenders for a Western Conference playoff spot as the stretch run approaches.

Chris Paul had 24 points and seven assists for New Orleans, which was coming off an overtime loss in Los Angeles the night before.

"I don't believe in that fatigue stuff. Toward the end, they made plays," Paul said. "It wasn't fatigue. We just lost."

Utah's emotions were also a factor. After a scare in the third quarter, the Jazz kept the Hornets from tying the game then Utah pulled away at the end as the fans celebrated the memorial victory. Paul was 0-for-3 and didn't score in the fourth quarter.

"The crowd was really into the game. The players, you could tell they really wanted to win it," Paul said. "We tried to come in here and steal one, but unfortunately we came up short."

Emotions alone weren't enough to carry Utah. After allowing an 11-point run in the third quarter that got New Orleans within two, the Jazz regrouped and took an 84-76 lead into the fourth quarter. Both teams sputtered through the first few minutes, but Williams revived his teammates and the fans with a 20-foot jumper, followed by a 3-pointer to put Utah ahead 91-80 with 6:48 remaining.

Mehmet Okur followed with a layup, then after Williams drew an offensive foul on Paul, Okur hit a 3-pointer that put the Jazz up 96-81 and all but clinched it.

The Hornets went without a field goal from 10:53 in the fourth until Rasual Butler's three-point play with 3:36 remaining.

Butler had 21, and David West had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Hornets, who are 0-2 against the Jazz this season.

The Jazz were 13-for-19 (68.4 percent) in the second quarter and 25-for-42 in the first half, forcing the Hornets into nine turnovers and leading by as much as 15 points.

New Orleans cut the lead to 73-71 with an 11-0 run, in the third quarter, but the rest of the period and all of the fourth belonged to the Jazz.

"It was really a good solid win, but it's hard to talk basketball right now," Sloan said.

Game notes The Jazz won the season series with the Hornets for the fourth straight year. ... Butler and Harpring were separated and called for a technical each with 4:37 left in the second quarter. ... New Orleans' Sean Marks turned the ball over when he stepped over the baseline before inbounding the ball after a turnover by the Jazz late in the third quarter. ... New Orleans was also coming off a game in Los Angeles the first time the Hornets visited Utah this season, a 116-90 win for the Jazz on Jan. 7.

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Doug Alden Sports Writer


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