EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Nov. 9 (Ticker) -- Richard Jefferson and the New Jersey Nets got back to playing defense. Jerry Sloan wondered if the Utah Jazz had other things on their mind.

Jefferson had 17 points, a career-high 12 assists and nine rebounds as the Nets defeated the Jazz 91-83.

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A defensive-minded squad last season, New Jersey surrendered 90 points or more in each of their first four games. But the Nets responded by shutting down the Jazz, who struggled to contain Jefferson, Vince Carter and Nenad Krstic.

"I asked (my players) if they had gotten their shopping done, or whatever else was on their mind," Sloan said. "Because it didn't look like we were thinking about basketball. (The Nets) did everything they wanted to do."

Jefferson nearly notched his first triple-double of the season, and second of his career, dominating play at times despite taking just nine shots. It was his fourth double-double in five games this season.

"It just shows the growth in his game," said Nets point guard Jason Kidd, who leads all active players with 68 career triple-doubles. "He's still learning, but when he plays like he did tonight, it makes it easier on everyone."

"His ability to get into the paint and find people, he was huge," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "His paint attacks, his persistence both in transition and off pick-and-rolls was a big difference in the game."

Carter scored 21 points and Krstic added 18 for the Nets, who bounced back from Monday's demoralizing one-point loss in Miami. Earlier Wednesday, Frank was fined $25,000 for his actions following that game.

There was no dramatic finish in this one, though, as New Jersey seized control in the third quarter, holding Utah to just 12 points on 4-of-21 shooting. The Nets made 9-of-16 shots and 9-of-12 free throws in the period.

"We understand that we have to play defense," Kidd said. "It was our best defensive quarter (of the season). I think it carried over from the Miami game. We knew we had to get some stops and we did."

Jefferson scored eight points in the third, and Carter had seven during a key 19-5 burst that gave the Nets a 68-53 cushion with less than a minute remaining.

"They've probably had a million practices harder than what we gave them," Sloan said. "They make you look like you're not all right, or sick or something."

New Jersey carried its momentum into the final quarter after Zoran Planinic buried an 80-footer from the opposite foul line at the buzzer for a 72-57 advantage.

"It was a good shot, that's about his range," Kidd said. "That's where he should shoot his free throws. He's been waiting five years to make a shot like that in the NBA."

Kidd had 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds as New Jersey (3-2) dealt Utah (3-2) its first road loss of the season.

Andrei Kirilenko scored 18 points on just 6-of-17 shooting for the Jazz, who were coming off Monday's win at Charlotte, but fell to 1-1 on their four-game trip.

Utah center Mehmet Okur, who averaged 25.3 points and 10 rebounds in the first four games, was held to two points and did not have a rebound.

"There was no semblance of order at all," Sloan said. "There were a lot of guys that just didn't show up tonight. You have to bring it every night in this league if you expect to win."