WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Jazz are not exactly known to be the wild West's sharpest sharpshooters.

The gang that doesn't shoot straight from behind the 3-point line was making just 29.6 percent of its trey attempts heading into Sunday night's visit to Philadelphia — the NBA's most-pitiful success rate by more than a full percentage point and a full 4.5 percent off the combined average of its opponents.

Utah's average of 8.59 3-point tries per game also was a league low, more than one attempt fewer than any other team in the league.

Utah's average number of made threes through 22 games before facing the 76ers in Philly: just 2.55 per outing.

So just how did the Jazz go about beating the Sixers? By pulling out their secret weapon, in part; go figure.

It may not be their tool of choice throughout a six-game Eastern road swing that continues tonight at Washington, but it sure can be effective when used wisely.

"A three is a great weapon — and even a bigger weapon when they're timely," shooting guard Raja Bell said. "So, if you can get a couple key threes, those are daggers."

The Jazz had more than a couple Sunday. In fact, they drained six — on just seven tries from behind the line, raising their team average to 31.6 percent.

Andrei Kirilenko had one in the second quarter, in a response to a Philly three from Kyle Korver, and another later in the same period, sparking a 13-0 Utah run. Carlos Arroyo in the third quarter, again answering Korver. Matt Harpring later in the third. Bell in the fourth, making it 79-72 Jazz.

Defensive-stretching daggers, one and all.

And then the biggest stick of them of them all: Kirilenko with just more than five minutes remaining, giving Utah an insurmountable 82-76 advantage.

All this from the team that isn't supposed to like, and isn't particularly good at, shooting the three?

The Jazz defend themselves like the Sixers were playing them Sunday.

Rather loosely.

"Even though . . . we're not known for it," center Greg Ostertag said, "we've still got some decent 3-point shooters."

Speaking of stretches . . .

Bell is the best of the bunch at an impressive 47.6 percent, 20-of-42, followed by sporadically used rookie Sasha Pavlovic at 41.7 percent (5-of-12) and Kirilenko at 34 percent (17-of-50).

But point guards Arroyo and Raul Lopez are averaging just a pinch over 26 percent, and no one else is making more than a quarter of their trey attempts, including both Harpring, who converts only 18.2 percent, and shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson, who has made just 14.3 percent.

Part of the story behind the numbers is that the structured Jazz offense simply does not lend itself to plentiful 3-point shooting — instead favoring higher-percentage layups created by lots of cutting, screens and wise decision-making.

Given a choice, they'll pick a pocketknife for a gun fight.

"I don't have a problem with 3-point shots. It's just a matter of trying to know when you think we're set up (to take them)," coach Jerry Sloan said. "When we've taken them over the years, we've given up layups on the other end of the floor if we don't make them. And I've never liked that.

"I'd rather make the other team have to work most of the time," Sloan added, "rather than us have to work like the devil to overcome that situation."

As a result, Bell said, "You've got to be smart" about when to try the three.

And that's not always easy for someone coming from another system, like ex-Sixer and ex-Dallas Maverick Bell.

"In Dallas, our philosophy was . . . push it down, and the first open shot you shoot it," Bell said. "With Jerry, he doesn't mind you shooting open 3s — but if you can get an open layup, that's even better. So, you've got to use your better judgment."

Sometimes, that means asking the man with the box of bullets for advice.

"I've put a couple up," Bell said, "and had to go over and ask him if that was too early for him.

"Jerry's pretty good," he added, "at just saying, 'Hey, that one might have been a little too early for me.' "

So Bell learns as the Jazz — now 13-10, with victories in two of their last three games — roll along.

"There were two or three (Sunday night) that I normally would have shot, and I thought wiser of it," Bell said. "That's me starting to understand what Jerry wants, and trying to fit in on a team — and I think when we all do that, we win games."

Win games — and maybe even begin to holster its reputation as the team that shoots at a can and too often is lucky to hit the big boulder behind it.

Three Stooges

A look at the Jazz's mostly laughable 3-point shooting success rate — after going 6-of-7 at Philadelphia on Sunday:

Player 3-pointers Percent

Raja Bell 20-of-42 47.6

Sasha Pavlovic 5-of-12 41.7

Andrei Kirilenko 17-of-50 34.0

Raul Lopez 8-of-30 26.7

Carlos Arroyo 5-of-19 26.6

Matt Harpring 4-of-22 18.2

Mo Williams 1-of-6 16.8

DeShawn Stevenson 2-of-14 14.3

Curtis Borchardt 0-of-1 0.0

TEAM 62-of-196 31.6

OPPONENTS 137-of-380 36.1


E-MAIL: tbuckley@desnews.com