Jerry Sloan is trying desperately to downplay what his team has done.

After the Utah Jazz won their 10th-straight road game, beating the Atlanta Hawks 103-94 Thursday to complete a sweep of a six-game Eastern road swing that is an annual killer for Western teams, Sloan said his team has been fortunate."We've been lucky," he said. "We've caught some teams that were struggling."

Yes, you've heard it before. Sloan has been saying it since about Game 5 of this streak. But c'mon, coach, give the guys a little credit. Sure, the teams the Jazz faced on this trip are all under .500 and have a combined record of 47-90, and they could all end up in the draft lottery. But the Jazz have played teams like this in previous seasons and lost. The fact is, they are doing what it takes, night after night, to win. Keep in mind, the NBA record for consecutive road wins is just 17, and that was set by one of the greatest teams of all time, the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. The Jazz probably won't get much closer to that mark, but it just points out how hard it is to string together road victories in this league.

The Jazz are getting so good at this road stuff that they even refused to fall victim to the trend for NBA teams to stink it up in the final game of a long road trip. They also knew that if they played the Hawks like they'd played the Bucks and Sixers, the streak would end.

"We were going to get beat," John Stockton said. "Everyone realized we didn't play well in Philly. We all got together tonight and decided we didn't like that trend."

Atlanta, meanwhile, came into this game all enthused about a lineup change that the Hawks hoped would be a turning point for them. But despite playing without David Benoit (ankle sprain) and Jay Humphries (sore knee), the Jazz knocked them down early and kept them there.

"I thought our guys were pretty enthusiastic after six games," Sloan said. "They looked like they were pretty interested."

If scoring is any indication, the most interested Jazzman at the start was guard Jeff Hornacek. Five minutes into the first quarter, Hornacek had scored 12 points - including back-to-back three-pointers - as Utah jumped out to a 14-5 lead. The Jazz hit 11 of their first 17 shots and led by as much as 14 in the period.

"We jumped out to a good start, then we controlled the pace," said Stockton, who finished with a season-high 17 assists.

One guy who didn't get off to a good start was forward Bryon Russell, who started for the injured Benoit. In that opening period, Russell's total positive contribution was two rebounds and one assist.

Because of Russell's poor play, Sloan sent in ex-Hawk Adam Keefe to play the final three minutes of the first quarter and the entire second quarter. He scored eight points in the second period, helping hold the Hawks at bay.

In the third period, Russell started again and rediscovered his game. He scored 10 points in the quarter, hitting four of five shots from the field.

"Adam gave us a great lift in the first half, and Bryon's game picked up in the second half," Sloan said.

And therein lies one of the most important factors in the Jazz's string of road conquests. When they have absolutely had to have someone from the bench step up, someone has.

"It's been somebody different every night," Stockton said.

Russell said the difference between his dismal first quarter and sterling third was mental. "In the first quarter I was playing hard, but I was forcing things, I was nervous," he said. "In the third quarter I relaxed and focused on playing my game."

The Jazz built their lead to 19 in the third quarter and were still in front by 18 with 5:11 left in the game before they lost interest and let the Hawk subs score some meaningless baskets. It's a luxury Jazz teams rarely have had on the road, and even the cautious Sloan had to acknowledge that his team seems to have learned how to win.

"When you win a couple out on the road, it kind of gets you thinking you can win all of them," he said.

Hornacek led the Jazz in scoring with 24 points. Karl Malone scored 20, Stockton 14, Spencer 13 (13 rebounds) and Russell 11.

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For Atlanta, Ken Norman scored 22 and Steve Smith contributed 17.

The Jazz returned to Salt Lake City on Friday and practiced immediately on their arrival, and now they'll get a couple of days off before resuming practice. A long homestand opens with a game against Indiana on Wednesday.

"We've got seven straight home games," Malone said. "We need to go home and take care of business."

GAME NOTES: The attendance was a paltry 9,441 . . . Houston beat Phoenix, so the Jazz remain in front by two games in the Midwest Division . . . The Hawks shot 52.4 percent at the free-throw line . . . Utah's 60-point first half and 61.5 percent field-goal shooting were highs for Hawk opponents this season.

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