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JAZZ: Return of Okur's shot lifts Jazz confidence

Published May 5, 2007 4:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Memo to Houston: Let sleeping jump shots lie.

The Rockets failed to do so Thursday night and, in the aftermath, Memo Okur snapped to life and helped the Jazz force Game 7 in their first-round playoff series with Houston.

Midway through the second quarter of the Jazz's 94-82 victory in Game 6, Okur got tangled up with Juwan Howard, who fouled him on a long jump shot.

A confrontation followed when Howard tossed an off-balance Okur to the court and the Jazz center quickly got to his feet and barked at Howard.

When the two players were separated by teammates and referee Dick Bavetta, Howard was called for a personal foul and a technical foul.

Okur took it from there.

After scoring two points in the first 20 minutes of the game, he finished with a 19 points - two more than he had scored in the first three games of the series.

Okur nailed four of seven three-point shots in the Jazz's victory, after going 4-for-25 in the first five games.

Howard blamed the incident on Okur and Bavetta, whom he appeared to brush during the scuffle.

"The guy went up to shoot," Howard said after the game. "I fouled him. He tried to force a three-point play attempt and I prevented that from happening by making sure he didn't bring his arms up. He flopped like usual and fell down."

According to Howard, Okur got up and "pushed my leg - pushed me. And I get the technical? So I thought that was very unprofessional on the referee's part. Of course I am going to appeal the technical because I feel the call should have been reversed. I feel it should have been a technical on [Okur]."

After the Jazz's light workout on Friday, Okur downplayed the incident: " I think things like that happen in basketball - playoff basketball - and I think I maybe overreact just a little. So it's all good."

According to Sloan, Okur has struggled offensively in the series because of his battle with Houston's Yao Ming, a 7-foot-6 All-Star.

Okur averages 10.2 points per game on 31.8 percent shooting, including 7-for-30 at the Toyota Center.

"He's had his hands full trying to deal with Yao Ming, just trying to keep him out of the paint, every time he runs down the floor," Sloan said. "That would take a lot out of anybody."

Okur cites familiarity with the Rockets' offense and help from his teammates as the reason he's had a little success defending Yao, who is shooting only 42 percent in the series.

"I am more comfortable playing him," he said, "because we know pretty much everything on him. What shoulder he likes to turn, where he likes to catch the ball, what he likes to do with the ball. Things like that."

The Jazz sound confident heading into Game 7, partly because of the return of Okur's three-point shot.

"He spreads out the defense," said Deron Williams. "He's another shooter. When he's hitting - and when [Gordan Giricek] is hitting - it opens things up for everyone else."

luhm@sltrib.com

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