It took 57 games for the Jazz to come together at last in this injury-ravaged season, but if Monday night's 108-89 victory over the Atlanta Hawks was any indication, the final 25 games might be something special at full strength. Even if Carlos Boozer made a quiet return in his first game back from left knee surgery, the Jazz ran like Boozer's white Rolls-Royce in the EnergySolutions Arena parking lot, shooting 70.7 percent in the first half and getting 58 points out of their bench players.
"I think we all knew this to begin with, but I think it kind of shows everybody else that," Kyle Korver said. "We've kind of just been weathering the storm this whole season, it seems like, as far as all these injuries, but all of a sudden tonight, we've got a really deep bench."
Korver broke out of a shooting slump, going 5-for-5 in the first half on the way to scoring 16 points. Ronnie Brewer led the Jazz with 19 points while Deron Williams had 15 points and 10 assists in 28 minutes, sitting out the entire fourth quarter in the blowout.
After opening the season 5-0, the Jazz have now equaled their season-best winning streak. They are now 8-1 in February and beat Atlanta for the 15th consecutive time in Utah, with the Hawks' last victory coming Feb. 13, 1993.
Not that there weren't fireworks along the way. Matt Harpring was fouled hard by Josh Smith on a layup bid with 8:40 left, banged his head hard against the floor and went after Smith, nearly throwing a punch before he was restrained.
Smith was ejected for a second-degree flagrant foul. Harpring stayed in to score 11 of his season-high 16 points in the fourth quarter.
Boozer, meanwhile, had two points and five rebounds in 21 minutes, going 1 for 5 and missing two free throws. He was originally injured Nov. 19, underwent surgery Jan. 9 and missed 44 games in all, with the Jazz going 25-19 in his three-month absence.
Boozer said his knee felt great, estimated it would two weeks to get back in rhythm and was encouraged by the victory. "When we get to the playoffs, if we're hitting our stride at the right moment, we could be a dangerous team," he said.
The Jazz took a 31-24 lead into the second quarter, then outscored the Hawks 17-8 with Williams on the bench to build a 19-point lead. Such is the strength of their second team with Boozer back, anchored by Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko and Harpring.
"I think our bench should be better as we move forward," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "Just trying to decide who to play and how to play them, that's going to be the toughest thing. ? Those guys have been through the wars here a little bit and had to hold us in there.
"Hopefully, our first group will play, otherwise we'll start those guys. That's a luxury I haven't had all season. Some guy's struggling and not defending, we're going to have to put somebody else out there."
Since returning from the All-Star break, Korver had gone 5 of 25 in three games, leaving him shooting 40.7 percent for the season. He has been bothered by both wrist and elbow injuries this season, but hit three three-pointers in the first half Monday.
As Korver heated up, Williams was on his feet, waving a towel, with a smile on his face. Before the game, Jeff Hornacek had jokingly asked Williams if he was going to match the record-tying 14 assists that Portland's Steve Blake had in one quarter Sunday.
"I said, 'If Kyle Korver starts hitting some shots for me,'" Williams said, with Korver standing nearby. "He was like, 'I will, but when it rains it pours.' That's what I kept telling him. It was pouring for a little bit."
The Jazz took a 66-52 lead into the locker room as Brewer crossed midcourt and beat the buzzer with a 35-foot three-point heave. The Jazz went 29 of 41 in the first half, their best shooting first half since they shot 74.1 percent in a Feb. 5, 1999 game against Chicago.
They kept rolling to start the second half, hitting 5 of 6 shots to open the third quarter with a 10-2 run. C.J. Miles scored three times and Williams flipped in a layup to make it 76-54. The Jazz led by as many as 26 in winning their eighth consecutive home game.
"This team, I said in the beginning of the year, should be pretty competitive if we could stay healthy," Sloan said, "but we haven't stayed healthy until now."
In short ? The Jazz blew out the Hawks in their first game all season with Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur together.
Key moment ? Kyle Korver hits a jumper and two three-pointers as part of a 17-8 run to open the second quarter with Williams on the bench.
Key stat ? The 58 points scored by the Jazz's bench players were only one shy of their season high, set in November against Phoenix.