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Okur and Harpring send Jazz over Clippers

Nov 15, 2006 - 5:04 AM SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- Mehmet Okur and Matt Harpring gave the Utah Jazz their best start since Karl Malone and John Stockton.

Okur scored 27 points and Harpring added eight of his 22 in a decisive run as the Jazz posted a 112-90 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Carlos Boozer collected 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Jazz, who shot 52 percent (42-of-81) from the field and outrebounded the Clippers, 41-31.

Looking to make up for missing the postseason in 2005-06, Utah notched its first 7-1 start since 1998-1999, when future Hall of Famers Stockton and Malone led the Jazz to the Western Conference semifinals.

"The core of this team has been together for a year, for the most part. And they should know how to do things a little bit better this year than they did last year," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "I've always felt like continuity is a huge part of being able to get better year by year. Because you should know what to do."

On Tuesday, Harpring and Okur were not running the pick-and-roll, but they were still a deadly combination. A 30-year-old reserve, Harping shot 7-of-11 from the field, including making two shots from the arc. Okur was 11-of-16 and 4-of-5 from the foul line.

Despite the hot shooting, Harpring felt that team defense was the biggest catalyst for the victory.

"To be a good team, obviously you've got to score, but you've got to be a good defensive team," Harpring. "To get far in the playoffs, you've got to have that defense down the stretch."

The defensive effort was led by rookie Paul Milsap, who had just six points, but had a huge impact on the game.

"I've been around this game a long time," Sloan said. "I think (Milsap) had 13 deflections, and that's more than ordinary guys get that've been in the league. He was all over the place.

"Paul has got the most basketball sense right off the bat, out of a young player, that you'll see. He has ability. He's got terrific hands and he's not afraid to use them." Trailing, 70-67, with 3:05 remaining in the third quarter, the Jazz went on a remarkable 27-5 run, capped by Harpring's two free throws, to make it 94-75 with 6:37 left in the game.

"We just played with more energy in the second half. In the first half, we were a little soft, afraid to foul, we had a new starting lineup out there so it took a little bit of an adjustment," Harpring said. "Second half, we came out and put our bodies on them, got more physical and then we forced more turnovers."

"We started getting back on defense, started getting a little bit more stops," Boozer said of the impressive spurt. "They're a really good transition team. In the first half, they took it to us a little bit and got out on the break. We tried to cut that down in the second half.

Cuttino Mobley scored 18 points and Elton Brand added 16 for the Clippers, who shot 46 percent (31-of-68) and had a five-game winning streak snapped.

"They're a well-coached team and they've got those young guys working really hard to improve," Brand said. "You can see it. It correlates onto the court."

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