Jazz: Streak hits 7
Andrei Kirilenko caught the ball cutting left across the lane with Martell Webster on his hip and the shot clock expiring in the third quarter Wednesday. Yet somehow he collected the pass from Ronnie Brewer and tossed in a hiccup of a runner back to his right.
"I knew I'm not going to have much time to kind of get the ball and set up my legs," Kirilenko said. "So I have to release the ball and pray at least it's going to hit the rim so we have a chance for the offensive rebound. And it goes in. Nice shot."
It was that kind of night for the Jazz, who hit 24 of 34 shots (70.6 percent) in the second half on the way to a 118-105 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at EnergySolutions Arena, running their winning streak to seven games.
With a group of flag-waving and camcorder-toting Turkish fans sitting seven rows behind the Jazz bench, Mehmet Okur finished with a season-high 28 points on 11-for-13 shooting while Andrei Kirilenko totaled 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
"This is when you're supposed to be playing your best basketball," Deron Williams said. "You're supposed to be coming together as a team and I think that's what we're doing right now. We're having guys come in and on different nights step up.
"I think the way A.K.s playing right now has definitely helped our case. We've always said he's the X-factor and right now he's just playing with so much confidence. Not just shooting the ball, but offensively, defensively."
The Jazz shot a season-best 62.7 percent in beating the Brandon Roy-less Blazers for the second time in eight days. They clinched the season series with a 3-0 record against Portland while having shot better than 60 percent in all three victories.
Although they were unable to pass Dallas for third place in the Western Conference with the Mavericks beating Golden State, the Jazz now own season-series tiebreakers against San Antonio (4-0), Dallas (2-1) and Portland (3-0).
"We've performed well against the good teams," Williams said, "and we wish we could have had a couple of those games early in the season back now, now that playing so good."
LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points and 12 rebounds for Portland, which has lost Roy for 10 games now to an injured hamstring. Two games after his 52-point eruption, Andre Miller had nine points and went 3-for-13, leaving him 5-for-28 this season against the Jazz.
The Jazz led 60-52 at halftime before pulling away in the third quarter. They recorded assists on 32 of 42 baskets in the game, one of which came as Paul Millsap slipped a screen in the third with the Blazers looking to double-team Williams off a pick-and-roll.
Williams (13 points, 13 assists) found Millsap for a layup as the Jazz made it 70-59 and Portland coach Nate McMillan called timeout. "It wasn't all our shooting," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said afterward. "It was all of our passing and we got easy baskets."
Okur hit a rainbow three-pointer as the Jazz made 11 of their first 13 shots in the second half. Williams faked a behind-the-back pass on a fast break, kept the ball and then wrapped a pass to Brewer for a layup.
Kirilenko drove past Webster for a dunk as part of a three-point play, Okur dunked off a pass from Millsap and Kirilenko hit his improbable runner to make it 86-70. It was the Jazz's best shooting second half since a Nov. 22, 2006 game at Sacramento (70.7 percent).
The Blazers closed within 97-90 with 6:43 left but the Jazz answered with Williams hitting Wesley Matthews for a layup on the break and Matthews putting back a Williams miss. Kirilenko dunked twice and Okur drained a long jumper to maintain control.
Okur dunked down the lane only 1:48 in and took just two three-pointers among his 13 attempts. "I really tried to take what they give me out there," Okur said, "and they gave me open layups and dunks and I was able to finish those and felt good."
IN SHORT » The Jazz shoot 70.6 percent in the second half in beating Portland for the third time in as many games this season.
KEY MOMENT » Deron Williams hits Wesley Matthews for a layup on the break after Portland closes within seven in the fourth quarter.