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Utah Jazz: Deron Williams breaks out of shooting slump

SALT LAKE CITY — He went a few nights with little lift, and it showed in his shooting.

But Deron Williams elevated his game Wednesday evening, and that helped boost the Jazz in their 105-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets at EnergySolutions Arena.

The All-Star point guard finished with 26 points and 11 assists, marking his eighth double-double in 16 outings this season and helping 11-5 Utah to its ninth win in its last 11 outings.

He also nabbed five steals, the most by a Jazz player this season.

"This is a good win against a good team," Williams said after center Al Jefferson added another 23 points and power forward Paul Millsap 17. "It was a collective effort tonight. We got it from everybody. We were balanced.

"We made extra passes, we helped on defense," Williams added. "We finally put one together."

And he finally had plenty fall his way.

Williams had 14 points in the first half alone, nine of them coming on 3-for-3 shooting from 3-point range.

He wound up 9-for-18 from the field, 4-for-5 from behind the arc.

It was quite a turnaround for someone struggling to knock down shots during much of the past week, and someone who hadn't shot 50 percent or better since Nov. 15 at Oklahoma City.

Williams had hit just 7-for-27 from the field in his two games prior to Wednesday, wins Saturday night at Portland and on Monday night over Sacramento in the first outing of a three-game homestand that concludes with Friday night's visit from the defending NBA-champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Moreover, he was just 2-for-14 from long distance in his previous four games before facing the Hornets — including a 1-for-5 outing on Nov. 17 against New Jersey and a 1-for-6 showing in last Friday night's home loss to San Antonio.

Part of Williams' problems in that regard, apparently, was a sore right foot that didn't cost him any games but did keep him from rising like usual on jump shots and drives to the basket.

He made a concerted effort to get others involved as a result, and got away with the off shooting nights against Portland and Sacramento.

But with hot Hornets in town — New Orleans arrived with an 11-2 record — it was critical that Williams' own hand be warm as well.

It certainly was Wednesday, when — matched against longtime rival and fellow All-Star Chris Paul, who scored 17 — he made 5-for-9 from the field. Williams distributed eight of his 11 assists as well in the half, sending the Jazz into the break up 10 at 61-51.

He missed his first shot, a 22-footer.

So Williams followed with feeds for buckets to Millsap, Raja Bell, Millsap again, Bell again and Jefferson — all in a span of just more than three minutes — before putting up another attempt of his own.

Williams missed that little layup too, and a 17-footer that followed.

But he nailed a trey try with 1:44 to go in the first quarter, and went on to make his next four consecutive attempts — including a step-back 3-pointer that made it 61-49 Jazz with 35.7 seconds left before halftime.

Williams cooled a bit in the third quarter, making just one of his five attempts.

But Utah was up 80-72 heading into the fourth anyway, and its point was cookin' again in that final period.

Williams hit 3-of-4 in the fourth, including a 3-pointer over Paul that made it a comfy 101-82 with just more than four minutes left.

"To see DWill step his game up to a whole 'nother level tonight — it was just fun to watch," Jefferson said.

Very uplifting, indeed.