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Stifling defense pushes Jazz past Hornets

The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- It was far from a thing of beauty, but it was Utah Jazz basketball at its grinding, blue-collar best.

The Jazz forced 19 turnovers in the first three quarters and held the New Orleans Hornets scoreless for the first 6:51 of the second quarter en route to a 96-84 Wednesday night at the New Orleans Arena.

Utah (9-7) earned just its third road victory this season in 10 tries.

The Jazz hounded the Hornets (4-10) into nine turnovers and 5-of-14 shooting in a decisive 31-17 third quarter, extending their lead to 72-56. The Hornets never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.

"In the second half, that's the way we want to play," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We want to play with a lot of energy and grit. We want to make people stop us at the rim before we go outside. That's our brand of basketball."

The defensive pressure in the second quarter was particularly impressive. The Hornets went 17 consecutive possessions without a point, missing nine shots and committing eight turnovers.

The Jazz's inside offense led to 38 foul shots, of which Utah hit 28.

"We attack the basket and we put pressure on the referees to make the calls," said Utah center Al Jefferson, who scored a game-high 19 points. "Then we knocked down the free throws. Any time you get to the line like that, it's going to help us."

Paul Millsap and Marvin Williams added 16 each for Utah. Gordon Hayward came off the bench to score 15, including 13 in the fourth quarter as he broke out of a three-game scoring slump.

"I started to hit some shots, but more importantly, we pulled away from them as a team," Hayward said after the Jazz opened a three-game trip with a victory. "We started off the road trip right. Defensively, there was stretch there in the first half where they didn't score for seven minutes, and in the second half, it was just about the same thing."

Corbin decided to make a defensive switch to cool off Hornets forward Ryan Anderson, who entered the game as the NBA leader in 3-point field goals. The 6-foot-9 Williams used his quickness to stay with Anderson in pick-and-roll situations. Anderson went just 1-for-6 from long range and finished with seven points.

"We told Marvin to stay with him for the most part," Corbin said. "We didn't want (Anderson) to get any free looks because he's a capable 3-point shooter and he's a big part of what they do. We wanted to make sure we had a body and somebody in his face the entire time he was out on the floor."

Williams went down hard late in the third quarter, hitting his head on the floor. After the game, he was being evaluated for concussion symptoms.

"We'll see what happens, but hopefully he's fine," Corbin said. "It looked like his feet got out from under him, and he fell down on his hip, and his head hit the floor, so it was a pretty good fall."

The Hornets, who played their sixth straight game without rookie forward Anthony Davis, were paced by Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez, who scored 18 points apiece.

Hornets coach Monty Williams applauded the Jazz for their aggressive style.

"They came out and played the game the right way," Williams said. "They went inside with Jefferson, and we didn't have an answer for him. We had one of those games where we looked like a young team."

NOTES: Utah guard Mo Williams missed the game with a sprained right forefoot. ... Monty Williams said Davis had his left ankle examined again by doctors Wednesday. "That's normal protocol," Williams said. Davis likely will be sidelined at least through Saturday's game against Oklahoma City. "We're just erring on the side of caution," the coach said. ... The Hornets are encouraged by the progress of shooting guard Eric Gordon, who has played in only nine games the last two seasons and is rehabbing a lingering knee injury in Los Angeles. Gordon attended the Hornets' 105-98 victory Monday against the Clippers. He is expected to be out through at least mid-December. "It seemed like he was in really good spirits," Monty Williams said. "He said his knee is coming along. If you watched the game and (saw) him on the bench, I think that spoke volumes as to how he feels about his teammates and staff. Obviously, his process has to run its course. But my conversation with him was really good. It's always been good. ... We can't wait to get him back."

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