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Jazz host hot-shooting Sonics 3 days after drubbing in Seattle

SHARE Jazz host hot-shooting Sonics 3 days after drubbing in Seattle

They shot 59.4 percent, 38 of 64 from the floor, easily a Jazz-opponent season high. They shot 59.1 percent, 13 of 22, from 3-point range. Small forward Rashard Lewis scored 36 points, making seven of his eight trey tries.

Just another day at the office Sunday for the sharpshooting Seattle SuperSonics.

Just another nightmare at work for the Jazz, who after two days of practice Monday and Tuesday face the very same Sonics tonight at the Delta Center.

The list of what Utah must do differently tonight if it hopes to have any chance of reversing Sunday's 122-105 misfortune is a long one, topped by the obvious.

"We've got to limit their field-goal percentage a little better," Jazz co-captain Matt Harpring said. "I mean, they shot lights out."

That's easier said, however, than done.

"They're good shooters," Jazz point guard Raul Lopez said of the Sonics, "but, you know, it's not impossible to guard people who can make 3s."

Again, though, easier said than done.

Contain the ball-handler. Avoid the draw-and-kick. Don't get too spread out, and ultimately picked apart. Respect the fact they can shoot, without becoming too susceptible to a hard drive. Try to force their big men to beat you, rather than the gunslingers.

All much, much easier said than done.

"The biggest thing we have trouble with is trying to match them up defensively," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said Tuesday.

"We're probably not equipped to try to deal with their quickness," Sloan added, "and that's a thing that hurt us a great deal (Sunday) and probably will hurt us again."

It could, especially if Luke Ridnour again runs the Sonics' offense like a young John Stockton and All-Star Ray Allen plays like, well, All-Star Ray Allen and Lewis again does all the damage of which he is quite capable.

"You're looking at Ray Allen, who can get on top of the basket. Ridnour is very good at getting on top of the basket if he wants to," Sloan said. "Then, if you try to give help, they've got Lewis playing extremely well.

"He (Lewis) has been a good post-up player, and if you go help out on him, they've got people spotted up that can shoot," Sloan added. "They've done a terrific job of getting their people where they want them on the floor, so they can find them and play off of how the defense has to play."

Credit for that goes not only to Sonics coach Nate McMillan, a big-time Sloan fan, but also to Ridnour, who has a real fan of his own in the long-time Jazz coach.

Sloan ranks Ridnour right up there with Chicago's Kirk Hinrich on his list of top young NBA point guards.

"Ridnour and Hinrich — they just play basketball, and they seem to know where they're going with the basketball as to what they're trying to do with the team," he said. "If they call a play, they just put the team in that position to play.

"It's not like they're going to ad lib and do something else," Sloan added. "They just go where you want to go with the ball."

Which oh-so-conveniently brings us to the Jazz's other area in need of vast improvement.

"We have to execute a little better," said Lopez, who will start tonight while usual starter Keith McLeod nurses a hamstring strain. "And recognize the defense."

Good idea, Jazz co-captain Raja Bell suggests.

"We're going to have to trust our offenses to work," Bell said.

"They run a lot of different (defenses). They run a zone at you, and they'll run a man-to-man where they switch everything," he added. "So we'll have to have confidence that what we run can get it done — and not try to do it ourselves, thinking it's a desperation-type situation."

Confidence, however, is something that has been in short supply this season for the 14-28 Jazz, losers of four of their five games and 23 of their last 29.

"I've never had a team," Sloan said Tuesday, reiterating remarks he has had several times this season, "that has been as fragile as this one since I've been in coaching — that if something goes wrong, we feel like the world's caved in on us."

Sloan suggested the Jazz often have no answers for their opponents' big plays, instead opting all too often to hang their heads.

"If they make a 3," he said, "it's like a hundred-point shot."

If that truly were the case, Sunday's score might have been more like 1,409-105. It wasn't nearly so bad. Trying to convince the Jazz of that, however, is no small task.

Especially with treys raining overhead and lights clearly flickering.

"To me," Sloan said of hard times the Jazz have had all too much of lately, "that's where you have to have a little bit more resilience to be able to fight through those things.

"We haven't shown a great deal of that in tough situations."

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com