SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Al Jefferson scored 20 points and reserve C.J. Miles added 17 in Utah’s 107-94 win over the New Jersey Nets on Saturday night, spoiling the return of former Jazz All-Star guard Deron Williams.
Williams was coming off a 35-point effort Friday in Phoenix but struggled in his first game back in Utah since his February trade.
He started 0 of 3, was just 2 of 12 at halftime and finished with 16 points on 3-of-15 shooting for New Jersey (3-10). Kris Humphries led the Nets with 18 points.
Utah (7-4) led 30-20 after one quarter and 57-40 at halftime.
Williams led Utah to four playoff berths but was traded just two weeks after a halftime spat with Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan.
A 3-pointer by MarShon Brooks pulled the Nets within 72-62 but Utah went on a 10-1 run, fueled by Miles and Paul Millsap.
Utah outscored the Nets 64-26 in the paint.
Signs in the arena were evidence of the mixed emotions Williams elicits, despite playing in 483 games over six seasons with the Jazz from 2005 until his Feb. 23 trade.
One read “Thanks for the Favors,” a reference to budding star Derrick Favors, acquired as part of the deal.
While Sloan insisted his spat with Williams was not the final straw, many believe Sloan had grown tired of battling Williams.
Two weeks later, the Jazz traded Williams to the Nets, with president Greg Miller saying he had a gut feeling he wouldn’t be able to re-sign the star guard to a long-term deal if he became a free agent in 2012.
The Nets so far have not done so either.
Williams has always said he missed the fans in Utah. Despite boos Saturday, it was clear many missed the player who had led the franchise to four playoff berths, including a trip to the Western Conference finals in 2007.
He had hugs for a 96-year-old usher, and signed autographs for about five minutes after pregame warm-ups.
One long-time fan even brought Williams his favorite chocolate cookies, and told him to share them with Mehmet Okur, who the Jazz traded to New Jersey just before Christmas because Utah had too many big men.
Okur scored first for New Jersey when he got a friendly bounce off the rim. He then converted a three-point play to give the Nets an 8-4 lead, grabbing an offensive rebound over Millsap then bulling ahead for the score and foul.
Utah then reeled off eight straight, and outscored New Jersey 15-2 in the next 3 minutes to take command.
Saturday’s game came 11 months after a different homecoming, when Carlos Boozer received expected boos — not Booz! — from Jazz fans when Chicago beat the Jazz 91-86.
That loss was quickly overshadowed by Sloan’s abrupt retirement a day later.
NOTES: Williams and Okur (9 points, 7 rebounds) created the biggest buzz, but the Nets have three other players with Utah ties: Guard Sundiata Gaines appeared in 32 games for the Jazz in 2009-10. Guard DeShawn Stevenson was drafted No. 23 overall by the Jazz in 2001 and appeared in 227 games. And Humphries was taken 14th overall by Utah in 2004, appearing in 129 games over two seasons before being traded to Toronto. … New Jersey’s last victory at EnergySolutions Arena came on November 29, 2008, when Devin Harris led the Nets with 34 points and six assists in a 105-88 victory. Harris, acquired in the Williams trade, scored two Saturday but had six assists. … Jazz backup point guard Earl Watson was listed as questionable because of a left knee bone bruise but entered late in the first quarter. He played 20 minutes, with six assists and four points.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.)