SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -After following big wins with embarrassing losses early in the season, the Utah Jazz are finishing off teams at the top and bottom of the standings.
The Jazz avoided any letdowns Saturday night against the bumbling New Jersey Nets, pulling away early in a 116-83 victory.
``We came out from the start of the game and acted like we wanted to win,' said Deron Williams, who had eight assists before he and the other Jazz starters spent the fourth quarter resting and watching from the bench.
They probably could have taken the third quarter off, too.
Utah, coming off a huge win Wednesday night at San Antonio, shot 67 percent in the first half and easily handed the Nets their 11th straight loss.
New Jersey fell to 1-23 on the road and 3-40 overall.
Mehmet Okur had 20 points and 11 rebounds, Carlos Boozer was one rebound shy of a double-double with 22 points and nine boards and Ronnie Brewer scored 15 points for the Jazz, who outrebounded the Nets 46-31 and scored 70 points in the paint.
Utah also finished with 28 assists.
``It looked like we were having a lot of fun playing together tonight,' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. ``We were trying to help each other out defensively. We also passed the basketball and that makes everybody happier.'
The Jazz are seven games above .500 for the first time this season at 25-18 and have surged from outside the playoff bubble to sixth in the Western Conference.
``If we can continue to finish games, hopefully we can climb the ladder a little bit in the West,' Boozer said.
Brook Lopez had 14 points, five rebounds and two blocks, and Yi Jianlian scored 16 points for New Jersey, which fell to 0-18 against the Western Conference. The Nets were coming off a 32-point loss Friday night at Golden State and were without point guard Devin Harris, who sprained his right wrist against the Warriors.
``The loss of Devin probably hurt us badly but it doesn't excuse having all the points in the paint, all the fast breaks and a lot of our turnovers,' Nets coach Kiki Vandeweghe said.
New Jersey went 0-4 on a Western tour, losing by an average of 22 points, and was outscored 70-34 in the paint Saturday.
``Things like that happen and it's just unfortunate that we're not playing with enough effort to win a basketball game or come close,' Vandeweghe said.
Paul Millsap scored 20 points, and Andrei Kirilenko had 11 points and two blocks for the Jazz.
``It's always good to get a win at home especially in front of your fans. When you don't have to play that many minutes, it's even better,' Brewer said. ``We're just glad with the way our team played.'
The Jazz scored 16 straight during a 21-3 run early and were 12 for 14 from the field in the first period, taking a 19-point lead and never letting the Nets get within single digits again.
The game was enough of a laugher that the fans started doing the wave to keep themselves entertained as Utah took a 94-63 lead into the fourth quarter. A Nets fan who kept trying to get in the camera shot between periods lost his hat when the Jazz mascot grabbed it, tied it to a balloon bouquet and let it fly to the rafters.
The Bear's steal got one of the loudest cheers of the night, which was topped when rookie Sundiata Gaines entered the game as a sub in the fourth quarter. Jazz fans are still thankful for Gaines' 3-pointer at the buzzer that beat the Cavaliers on Jan. 14.
NOTES: Utah's shooting tailed off late in the second quarter, but the Jazz were still 23 for 35 in the first half. ... The Jazz won the season series against the Nets for the first time since 2002-03. ... Gaines is on his second 10-day contract and the Jazz have until Sunday to decide whether to keep him the rest of the season.
The Associated Press News Service
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