"We're just glad to have Deron back," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said after Williams had 11 points and 15 assists in his return to the lineup, leading the Jazz to a 117-100 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
"In the open floor, he gets guys the basketball. That's what makes him such a great player and when someone can get you the ball in the open court, you run harder."
Even the Jazz were amazed how easily Williams ran.
"I was a little bit surprised but in a positive way because he's been out for a while. But he was great. He looked sharp out there, condition-wise, passing-wise and shooting-wise," said Mehmet Okur, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds.
"It's back to reality with Deron on the court. We know we play better with him," Millsap said.
After sitting comfortably in his warmups and watching the Utah blowout, Williams was rushed back into the game when an 8-0 Memphis run cut a 24-point Jazz lead to 97-81 early in the final period. When he finally left the court for good, Williams had helped Utah extend its advantage to 113-86 and exited to a loud ovation.
"We had some highlights tonight. We did a good job of getting out and running and they guys did a good job of finishing for me," Williams said after seeing his teammates throw down 13 dunks.
Williams missed seven straight games with a sprained left ankle he sustained in the preseason. He had played only twice this season, on Nov. 11 and 12, before he was sidelined again. Now, he feels he's back to stay.
"I'm still a little hesitant physically. I got a little nervous down around the basket, but it felt pretty good. I know my limitations right now. I'm not going to come back and score 25, but I can do my part and get guys shots, and try to run the offense," Williams said.
The fourth-year guard played 29 minutes and moved around the court well, but often grimaced and stretched awkwardly to try and keep his ankle loose during breaks in the action. When he wasn't in the game, Williams had his ankle wrapped in an ice pack.
"He's a great player, an Olympic gold medalist, a hard worker and he's the general of this team. He's been out most of the season, but with the general back, he generated energy with his teammates," Mayo said.
Memphis, which ranks 25th in shooting percentage, had no problem finding the range but couldn't keep the Jazz off the boards and out of the passing lanes. The Jazz outrebounded the Grizzlies 44-30 and scored 28 points off Memphis' 16 turnovers.
"They ran at us every time and every turnover was a basket for them. They pushed harder and played harder than we did," Memphis center Marc Gasol said.
Utah began a new home-court winning streak after the Chicago Bulls stunned the Jazz on last-second shot in a 101-100 upset Monday. The Jazz had won 14 straight and 33 of 34 at EnergySolutions Arena before the loss.
"We know we're not supposed to lose any here in this arena," Millsap said.
Though Utah's injured list included Boozer, Kyle Korver, Brevin Knight and Jarron Collins, Millsap and Okur made sure they weren't missed. Millsap grabbed seven of his 16 rebounds on the offensive end and finished five of Utah's possessions with dunks.
Since returning from Turkey to see his ailing father and rest his own back problems, Okur has averaged 16.4 points and shot better than 60 percent.
Memphis is 0-10 this season when outscored in the third quarter. The Jazz had 36 points in the periods to 25 for Memphis. The Grizzlies shot 53 percent but only had 15 assists on 41 field goals. The Jazz led by as many as 27 in the fourth quarter.