Okur comes on late as Jazz hold off BullsFeb 6, 2007 - 6:56 AM SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) Nowhere to be found for most of the game, Mehmet Okur showed up in crunch time.
After struggling for three periods, Okur scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and Deron Williams collected 18 points and 13 assists as the Utah Jazz held off the Chicago Bulls, 100-95, for their third straight win.
Derek Fisher scored 19 points for the Jazz, who played their fourth game without injured Carlos Boozer. The forward will be out at least four weeks with a leg injury suffered just four minutes into a loss to the New Orleans Hornets on January 27.
"We're just battling adversity. Booz goes out, but we've got to keep playing our season," Williams said. "We need him back as soon as possible, but we're going to find some things out about ourselves right now."
Utah has rallied without its star forward thanks to Okur, who scored a total of 60 points in wins over Western powerhouses San Antonio and Phoenix last week. Three days after pouring in 31 points vs. the Spurs, Okur on Saturday finished with 29 points and 12 rebounds to lift the Jazz to a road victory over the Suns.
On Monday, however, Okur struggled through the first three quarters, scoring just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting. In the final 12 minutes, it was a different story as the versatile big man was clutch.
"I had foul trouble earlier, but I don't give up. I stay hungry," said Okur, who picked up his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter. "I knew it was a long game, 48 minutes, so I just stay focused. I do what I do. We took what they gave us."
Leading by 10 points with 3:33 remaining, the Jazz let the Bulls back into the game as Chris Duhon's 3-pointer capped a 12-5 run to make it 93-90 with 1:24 left. However, on Utah's next two possessions, Okur answered.
"We just relaxed a little bit. We had a tough time with Okur," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "I would say that with the three key plays, he made two. We should have done something about it."
He hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to give Utah a bit of breathing room with just over a minute on the clock. Luol Deng responded with an emphatic dunk from the baseline on the other end, and facing a four-point deficit, the Bulls knew exactly who the Jazz would be looking for - Okur.
As expected, Okur rolled around to the perimeter, but Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich stayed right with him. Okur made a move toward the basket, then stepped back and quickly let off a floating 20-footer that bounced twice on the rim before slipping in with 25 seconds remaining, giving Utah a 98-92 advantage and all but sealing the victory.
"We ran a high screen with Deron and took what they gave us," Okur said. "They made a switch. (Deron) just passed to me. I had one dribble to create more space and stepped back. It was a good pass from Deron, good read."
"He's seven feet. It's hard to challenge a guy of his size," Hinrich said of guarding the much-bigger Okur. "Luol did a good job of finding him and searching out his shots, but he hit them down the stretch."
As they did in their victories over the Spurs and Suns, the Jazz's depth and versatility played a huge part in Monday's win. Williams repeatedly found guards Derek Fisher and Gordan Giricek on the perimeter, while Okur and rookie forward Paul Millsap provided some of the low-post presence that is sorely needed in Boozer's absence.
"You look at our bench and see how effective they've been all year long to help us win ballgames," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "Otherwise, we couldn't do it. Now we've got Boozer out and Andrei's banged up a little bit, so somebody is going to have to step up and play. That's what they get paid for."
The Jazz took control in the second quarter with a 23-3 run that took a 22-12 deficit into a 35-25 advantage. Giricek scored 10 of his 12 points during the spurt.
Hinrich scored 26 points and Deng added 23 for Chicago, which shot just 40 percent (26-of-65) to suffer just their second loss in the last seven games.
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