NEW ORLEANS -- Deron Williams' ability to take over games is keeping the Utah Jazz in striking distance of the second playoff seed in the Western Conference.
"He's an All-Star. He's a great player in this league, one of the best point guards in this league," Jazz rookie Wesley Matthews said. "All great players posses that capability, and when it's time, he does it."
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Williams scored 12 points during a pivotal 18-3 third-quarter run and finished with 27 points and 16 assists to lead Utah to a 114-103 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.
"We struggled in the first half a little bit so I wanted to get going in the second half," Williams said. "So I felt I should be a bit more aggressive. ... Everybody on the team said I looked like I was playing street ball."
The Jazz pulled within a half-game of Denver and Dallas for second place in the West.
Utah led by only five at halftime but cashed in when the Hornets struggled to hit shots early in the third quarter.
The Hornets opened the period 1 of 7 from the field. Williams scored the first nine points of Utah's big surge, during which he hit a jumper, tip-shot, and several layups, two on which he was fouled and converted three-point plays.
Paul Millsap's reverse layup, set up by Williams' pass, made it 82-61, and it appeared the Jazz were in command.
"Deron Williams just took control in terms of making sure they got a quality shot every time down the floor," Hornets forward David West said. "We couldn't get him under control to where we could bother his ability to pass or get to the basket."
The Hornets didn't give up, closing the period on a 7-0 run, then opening the fourth quarter with Darren Collison's jumper and his alley-oop lob to Emeka Okafor to cut it to 89-79.
It got as close as 101-96 when Marcus Thornton put back his own miss with 4:12 to go, but Williams responded by calmly hitting a 3 from the corner after losing Thornton on a screen. Kyle Korver, who had 11 points, and Matthews each added late 3s to make it a comfortable margin.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan said he wasn't surprised the Hornets didn't quit, even though they came in on a four-game skid and out of postseason contention.
"People don't understand how tough it is to play against these teams that are not in the playoffs," Sloan said.
Matthews scored 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, while Carlos Boozer had 19 points and 10 rebounds for Utah. Paul Millsap added 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Collison had 28 points and seven assists. West had 19 points, Thornton 15 and James Posey 13.
Utah scored 23 points on fast breaks. Despite being without starting center Mehmet Okur, the Jazz finished with a 56-42 edge in points in the paint and outrebounded New Orleans 41-35. With Okur out, seldom used Kosta Koufos played 16 minutes and had six points, four rebounds and a pair of blocks.
"We got guys that can play. We do a good job of trusting each other," Boozer said. "We are deeper than most teams think."
Utah also outshot the Hornets 55 percent to 49 percent.
Both teams scored with ease in a close first half, when Utah shot 62.5 percent (25 of 40) and scored 32 points inside and 10 points on fast breaks. Utah took the largest lead of the half by scoring the first six points of the second quarter to go up 38-30. The Hornets responded with an 11-2 run, highlighted by Posey's two 3-pointers, to pull ahead 41-40.
Matthews, who came in averaging 9.2 points, scored 13 in the first half, including a 3 and fast-break layup late in the second quarter to help Utah take a 60-55 lead into halftime.
The Jazz are 14-8 in their last 22 road games. ... The Jazz have won four straight in New Orleans, the city where the NBA club was founded. ... Actor John Malkovich attended his second straight Hornets game in courtside seats and celebrity chef Mario Batali also sat courtside. Batali said one of his first stops in town was Domilise's po-boy shop in the city's Uptown area, where he had a fried oyster po-boy. ... Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest was at the game. He said, "There's nothing to say at this time" about his negotiations to buy out majority owner George Shinn. Shinn also was at the game, in his courtside seats next to his two sons, wife Denise and Batali.