Without Okur out, Harpring and Williams lead Jazz over NuggetsFeb 24, 2007 - 7:27 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- Without All-Star Mehmet Okur, the Utah Jazz got help from an impressive duo.
Deron Williams had 26 points and 14 assists and Matt Harpring added 22 points as the Utah Jazz shut down the Denver Nuggets' supporting cast in a 114-104 victory.
After missing eight games with a fractured left fibula, Carlos Boozer scored 10 points in 12 minutes for the Jazz, who picked up their seventh win in their last eight games. Utah went 6-2 with its All-Star forward out of the lineup.
"Boozer can only play a couple of minutes," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "Deron, I don't what you can say about him. He had a terrific game. It's tough to come in here and play these guys and our guys got ready to play and stayed with what we wanted to do most of the time."
An All-Star for the first time this season, Okur was averaging 18.4 points and 7.4 rebounds entering Friday's contest. He also has been the Jazz's most reliable player down the stretch, making numerous clutch shots this season.
On Friday, he informed coach Jerry Sloan shortly before tip-off that his back had tightened and he would have to sit out. Sloan said that the bench stepped up with the team shorthanded.
"We wouldn't have been in them game if our bench hadn't played," Sloan said. "Our whole bench did a terrific job. (Paul) Milsap, he's just something else every night he plays. (Gordan) Giricek made some terrific passes when we were trying to finish the game."
Williams, who many believed should have joined his teammate in the midseason showcase, picked up the slack. He shot 8-of-20 from the field, including 2-of-5 from the arc, but made his biggest impact controlling the pace and being an effective playmaker.
"It was a good game for us," Williams said. "We tried to step it up and we needed this one bad. That puts (Denver) 9 1/2 games back from us, so if they should somehow tie us we've got the tiebreaker. So, it was a good win for us. I had to be a little more aggressive because we didn't have all our (ammunition) tonight. We executed, we pushed the ball in the third quarter and we just got into our offense and made some easy baskets."
Harpring benefited from his teammate's unselfish play, shooting 8-of-13 from the field. After Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony's 3-pointer cut their deficit to 107-98 with 2:45 left, Harpring scored Utah's next five points to neutralize Denver's burst.
"Harpring played terrific," Sloan said. "For having not played hardly any minutes at all, and then he goes out there and has to play a ton of minutes. To say one thing about him, he's in great, great shape to be able to step out there and do that."
Anthony scored 36 points and Allen Iverson added 33 for the Nuggets, who shot 52 percent (35-of-67).
Despite the two superstars scoring more than half of the team's points, Iverson did not want to point fingers at the rest of the team.
"Maybe me and Melo (Carmelo) could have done more," Iverson said. "That's the way I look at it. My teammates did what they could, they did the best job that they could, but we came up short.
"It's a team loss and that's that. Maybe, if me and Melo didn't make the mistakes that we made, the results might have been different. It's a team game, all of us can get better."
Anthony admitted the team has not come together on the court.
"We don't have any chemistry right now," Anthony said. "Our cohesiveness amongst the team, we don't really have that. We are just trying to get everybody on one page, it seems like everybody is in their own world right now. If we can get all of us together and focused on one thing, which is winning basketball games, we'll be all right.
"The chemistry off the court is great, I can tell you that. That's why I don't understand how the chemistry on the court isn't as great. Maybe, it takes time to play with different guys, different lineups. I'm pretty sure we'll figure it out, but like I said, I just don't want it to be too late before we figure it out."
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