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Utah Jazz notes: Zone D giving shooterless Jazz headaches

BOSTON — Sacramento did them in with it last Saturday, and New York very nearly did the same Monday.

Whether the Boston Celtics try it much tonight seems unlikely, as they're a man-to-man team that typically plays it as much as the Jazz, which is to say hardly any and more often than not none at all.

Still, after experiencing zone defenses their last two outings — and knowing more of the same is bound to keep coming as long as sharpshooters Kyle Korver and C.J. Miles continue to recover from knee and thumb ligament surgery, respectively — the Jazz at least feel they're better prepared the more and more they see it.

Yet they know they have a ways to go.

"We were a little better than what we were the other night, but not a lot," coach Jerry Sloan said after the Jazz held on to beat the Knicks on Monday.

"We had good stretches (Monday) where we got some open shots," Deron Williams said, "and then others where we got stagnant and couldn't find a good open look. ... It's definitely tough when teams show it a lot."

When Sacramento zoned them, the Jazz couldn't figure out how to get inside and break it. And they weren't doing well over top, missing 10-of-15 from 3-point range.

The Knicks started zoning about midway through Monday's first quarter because the Jazz — as forward Carlos Boozer said — were "picking them apart man-to-man."

The Jazz — who according to Williams don't frequently prepare in practices for playing against zones — did manage to penetrate for a few layups early, though all did not fall.

But what really allowed them to hang on was that forward Andrei Kirilenko found a spot and got hot, hitting 4-of-4 from behind the long-distance in the third quarter alone and finishing 5-for-8 on trey tries en route to scoring 23 — more points than he had in any single game last season.

"(Kirilenko) looked pretty comfortable shooting the ball," Sloan said, "and playing against the zone you've got to be able to make some shots out there."

"I love to play against zones because defensively, guys, they didn't really pay attention," Kirilenko added. "They're not playing against you particularly, they're playing against (a) spot."

If the Jazz can't get shots to fall like Monday, though, they could have their hands full in the future.

"Teams are gonna keep throwing it at us every game," Boozer said after practice Tuesday, "so .... we'll work on it the rest of the season."

Sometimes more than they'd ideally like.

"You've got to be able to make some shots out there," said Sloan, seemingly flustered because his teams from seasons past never have had so much trouble against zones.

"We'll see a lot of that, I'm sure. People who know that we don't shoot the ball that well out on the perimeter try to take away your inside game, and that's how they'll play us. ... People know the shooting percentages of everybody in the league."

KIRILENKO KUDOS: Kirilenko gave a shout for his hot hand to the Jazz's part-time shooting coach.

"Say hello to Jeff Hornacek," he said.

But with six rebounds and six assists too he was doing more than making shots Monday, and teammates noticed.

"He was huge," Williams said. "He was finding open spots, he was knocking down shots, he was active. He played a heckuva game."

TICKETS DONATED: Boozer, Williams and Korver have purchased and donated to nonprofit organizations aiding youths and individuals in need nearly 4,000 tickets to home games this season.

The three have combined to donate 11,500 tickets over the past four seasons, with beneficiaries including Special Olympics, Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Children's Service Society.

Organizations interested in applying for donated tickets can submit a written request on letterhead (including a count of youths) to Jazz Community Relations, 301 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101.