LeBron itching for revenge against the Jazz

By By Jason Peterson

By Jason Peterson

Of the Utah Jazz’s seven victories this season, Wednesday night’s win over the Toronto Raptors might have been the most encouraging. Utah built a sluggish 39-36 halftime lead and held on to escape with a narrow 92-88 win — on the road against a 2006-07 playoff team.

“We gotta execute down the stretch,” Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer said before the game. “We do that, we always have a chance to win.”

The Jazz scored 92 points against Toronto, which is the lowest point total thus far, but it proved that the team can win with the slow-paced, grind-it-out style to which Utah is traditionally accustomed.

The previous six opponents Utah defeated had a combined record of 8-26, and the Jazz played five of the season’s eight games within the friendly confines of the EnergySolutions Arena.

Starting with tonight’s rematch against the Cleveland Cavaliers — who are itching for payback after Deron Williams’ last-second dagger on Nov. 7 — the Jazz will experience its own nightmare before Christmas. Fifteen of the next 22 games (through Dec. 28) are on the road, and 13 of those are against teams with 0.500 records or better.

The last time the Jazz faced the Cavs, LeBron James tallied an impressive triple-double of 32 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists. Drew Gooden scored 17 points. Even Zydrunas Ilgauskas had a field day with 18 points and 14 boards. But the rest of King James’ supporting cast failed to show up, and Larry Hughes missed the game with a bruised left knee. Hughes is expected to be back on hand for tonight’s tip-off at the Quicken Loans Arena.

Meanwhile, the Jazz used 23 points and 12 rebounds from Carlos Boozer against his former team to snag the victory. Boozer, who was recently named to the All-star ballot along with 23 other Western Conference forwards, is averaging a career-best 25.9 points and 12.4 rebounds.

Williams also had a double-double against Cleveland, but the other half of Utah’s “Fantastic Four” (which includes Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur) had subpar games. Cleveland was Utah’s last opponent before Kirilenko began to rake in stats with the zeal of an IRS agent collecting taxes. Okur shot 2-for-10 against the Cavs the last time the two teams met, and Cleveland’s frontcourt out-rebounded Utah 47-43.

“We feed off the big four,” said Brewer, who is averaging 12 points more than last season. “You never know how far this team can go if everyone plays well.”

Utah will complete a back-to-back set against the Indiana Pacers tomorrow night in Indianapolis before flying home to host New Jersey on Monday.

The Pacers began the season 3-0 before tailing off and dropping their next five. Last season, the Pacers finished with a 35-47 record — their worst in nearly 20 years. Hoping to shake things up, general manager Larry Bird helped to fashion a blockbuster trade with Golden State that involved eight players.

Former warriors Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy and Ike Diogu form the Pacers’ core with All-star Jermaine O’Neal as the anchor. Third-year veteran Danny Granger is enjoying a break-out season, averaging a team-best 18.4 points.

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