Facebook Twitter

Hard hitting — Jazz win over Hawks comes with controversy

SHARE Hard hitting — Jazz win over Hawks comes with controversy

The Jazz roll to an easy win, notch their fifth straight victory and do much more right than wrong from beginning to end.

Yet, there is still controversy.

Such was the case Monday night, when postgame chatter over a flagrant-2 foul called on reserve center Rafael Araujo trumped talk about how Utah had its way in a 102-76 victory over Atlanta at sold-out Energy Solutions Arena.

There was plenty for the 34-17 Jazz, make no mistake, to crow about after Utah — which on Sunday overtook San Antonio for the third-best record in the NBA, behind Dallas and Phoenix — took an 18-point lead into halftime, then increased that advantage over the largely disinterested Hawks to as many as 35 early in the fourth quarter.

And they did, however sheepishly so.

"They (the 20-31 Hawks) didn't play as well tonight as they could have. It was kind of one of those games that you've got the lead, take the win and go home," said Jazz forward Matt Harpring, who calls the Atlanta area home. "A win's a win. It doesn't matter if it's against the San Antonio Spurs or the Atlanta Hawks. It goes in the win column, and then we move on."

Even Hawks coach Mike Woodson — whose club yielded a 21-point fourth-quarter advantage to Utah back in December — had a tough time arguing with that.

"(Coach) Jerry Sloan's teams play hard," Woodson said after six Jazz scorers posted double figures, topped by Mehmet Okur's 19 points. "If you don't meet their energy and toughness, you get embarrassed like we did tonight.

"I'm not taking anything away from them — they played their butts off," he added. "Our team didn't come to compete. That's unacceptable. We were a non-factor from beginning to end."

What Woodson did take issue with, however, was the fourth-quarter foul on Marvin Williams that led to Araujo's ejection.

Araujo's left arm connected with Williams' face as the Atlanta small forward made a move to the basket, bloodying Williams' nose and leaving the Hawks crying foul.

"It was a dirty play, plain and simple," Hawks swingman Josh Childress said. "Your team is up 25 points (actually 34 at the time), and if you're going to foul him, foul him — but don't go for somebody's head. It's just something that you don't do."

"He (Araujo) should have been kicked out of the game — and he should be suspended," added Woodson, whose Hawks had won their previous five road games — but were looking rather drained after a one-point win Sunday at Golden State. "You take a guy's face off like that. It's unacceptable. You can't do that. The league will have a chance to see it, and they'll make a decision from there."

Sloan, though, allowed more room for interpretation.

"I guess there could be a question about it," the Jazz coach said shortly after watching a replay of the incident. "But it looked to me like he (Araujo) had his arm up. The guy ran into him and fell off him. It looked like (Williams) took a bigger guy on.

"That (a flagrant-2 foul, which results in two free throws, possession of the ball to the fouled team and automatic ejection of the offending player) is what they called, so you have to live with it," added Sloan, whose Jazz end a four-game homestand and play for the final time before this weekend's NBA All-Star break on Wednesday night vs. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. "I didn't agree with it, but there's not anything I can do about it."

As for the principles, they, too, saw things differently.

"I feel like he came straight for my face," Williams said. "In the NBA, there's always hard fouls taken — but I think it's really crossing the line when you start taking shots at somebody's head."

Araujo — who also was ejected from a Rocky Mountain Revue summer league game last July after tangling twice with Williams, and on Monday conceded that could have been a factor in his ejection this time — suggested he merely was trying to stand his ground near the basket.

"I had position. I was straight up ... I don't mean to do anything. I think he just run through me. I just stopped right there," the ex-BYU center said. "I just want to cover my man and help out. It just happened, you know? I'm a solid guy, he's a guard, so we just hit the wall."

Araujo, who plays rather sparingly for the Jazz, bolstered his case by arguing he had no reason to want to risk an ejection after logging just 11 minutes in the blowout win.

"Why am I going to do that (when they're) down by 30 points?" he asked. "Why am I going to do some flagrant foul when I have an opportunity to play? I want to play, I want to show I can help my teammates."

Woodson, meanwhile, only wishes what the Jazz showed will rub off on his Hawks.

"They do a great job in demanding discipline and demanding players to play hard every night," he said. "I'm trying to get our team like that. I like the way their team plays."

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com