Jazz close homestand 4-0

Published January 13, 2009 12:05 am
Golden touch » Okur scores a career-high 43, the most points for a Jazz player in a decade.
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The gesture was subtle enough to be noticed only by a few at EnergySolutions Arena, but after Mehmet Okur drilled a three-pointer in the third quarter Monday night, he pointed his right hand like a pistol, blew out the pretend smoke and holstered his imaginary gun.

"I felt like do something like that because I was feeling great," Okur said. "It was something just came up with and I had a good time."

It took the Jazz another quarter to put the final bullet in the Indiana Pacers, but they closed out a 4-0 homestand with a 120-113 victory that saw Okur score a career-high 43 points, the single highest-scoring game by a Jazz player in more than a decade.

Okur went 13 of 19 overall and 14 of 15 from the foul line, scoring 18 points in the first quarter, 26 by halftime and 41 through three quarters. Okur's previous career high was 38 and he enjoyed the Jazz's highest scoring game since Karl Malone's 44 in April 1998.

"He just, you might say, let it rip, and he did," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "Had a wonderful game for him."

"I know what he's capable of -- he's my neighbor," Andrei Kirilenko added. "I got confidence in him."

"I was hoping he was going to get 50," Deron Williams echoed. "He was on pace, started out the game on fire, and just got a little tired at the end, I think."

The Jazz led by 20 after Okur hit a 22-footer with 3:46 left in the third, but gave up a 16-0 run to let Indiana back in the game. Sloan had to bring back Williams, Ronnie Price and Ronnie Brewer after Troy Murphy's free throws made it 96-92 with 10:36 remaining.

"Those are things we can't do," Williams said. "We had a little slip-up. But anytime you play a team like this, they're at risk of scoring a lot of points in a hurry. They shoot a lot of threes and if they get hot, three-pointers add up."

In the final three minutes, Mike Dunleavy hit a third-chance three-pointer for the Pacers to make it 109-106. The Jazz answered as Kirilenko slammed home Williams' missed three-pointer, but still needed one more big play to finish off Indiana.

It came courtesy of Williams, who tried to set up Okur for a jumper only to have his pass rattle off Okur's legs with the Jazz clinging to a four-point lead. Jeff Foster dove after the ball, but Williams came up with it and hit a 29-foot three-point with the shot clock expiring.

Williams finished with 23 points and 11 assists while Kirilenko, starting in place of the injured Paul Millsap, had 23 points and 12 rebounds. The Jazz scored a season-high 36 points in the first quarter and 70 in the first half.

It was Okur, though, who most victimized the Pacers, who came into Monday as the NBA's 29th-ranked defensive team and gave up 121.2 points on average on their five-game trip that ended with Monday's loss to the Jazz.

The Pacers opted to double Williams on the pick-and-roll and rotate off Okur to help inside. With Rasho Nesterovic and Foster often not even in his area code, Okur hit one jumper after another. "I felt like one of those nights for me, I wasn't going to miss," Okur said.

"He had a great game, hats off to him," Indiana coach Jim O'Brien said. "It's tough to double-team somebody on the three-point line, it's very hard to do that."

Continuing his streak of fast starts, Okur scored 18 points in the first quarter, which he capped by driving on Nesterovic and banking in a 13-foot runner. Okur now is averaging 13.6 points in the first quarter of his last five games.

After missing three games with a bad back around Christmas, Okur is averaging 24.2 points and shooting 62.3 percent (48 of 77) in his six games since returning. Okur never had scored 43 points in a game before Monday, not even when he was playing in Turkey.

The Jazz, meanwhile, moved back into the Western Conference's top eight during their 4-0 homestand. Williams noted the team now was only two games out of the No. 2 playoff spot. "We're not in a bad position right now," he said. "Destiny's in our hands."

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Jazz 120, Pacers 113

Mehmet Okur has 50 in his sights, but settles for a career-high 43 as the Jazz close out a 4-0 homestand.

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