Okur leads Jazz to fourth straight; cruise by BobcatsMar 6, 2007 - 6:18 AM SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- The Utah Jazz are right where they were last year only it took them seven weeks fewer to get there.
Mehmet Okur scored 32 points and reserve Matt Harpring added 19 as the Utah Jazz matched their win total from last season with a 120-95 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
Gordan Giricek scored 15 points off the bench and Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer each added 12 for the Jazz, who returned home to win their fourth straight after sweeping three games on the road.
Okur, who posted his eighth 30-point game of the season, connected on 13-of-15 shots and added nine rebounds and three assists. He was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field in the third quarter, during which the Jazz effectively put the game away, extending their lead to 16 by the end of the period.
"That boy got hot. He's one of those dudes that, if he catches fire, no matter where he's at on the court, it's gonna be nothing but bottoms," Boozer said. "The third quarter was evident of that. He was hot all game though. He was hot yesterday; it just carried over from yesterday...He was a flamethrower tonight."
After suffering back spasms nearly over the past two weeks that kept him sidelined in two games and limited his effectiveness in three others, Okur has returned to being a dangerous scorer over the last two nights. In Utah's last two games combined, he has scored 60 points on 23-of-32 shooting.
"I felt good out there. My teammates did a great job, they created open shots for me," Okur said. "I have confidence in my shots."
The Bobcats were manhandled on the boards by Utah throughout the night, thanks in large part to the absences of injured forwards Emeka Okafor (strained calf) and Sean May (knee soreness). But leading scorer Gerald Wallace kept his team in the game for as long as he could, slashing through the Utah defense for 22 points in the first half alone.
"We had a difficult time trying to guard him," Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan said. "The way we started off guarding him, he just marched to the basket and nobody was even close to him."
"I think we got into some early foul trouble against [Wallace] and we were kind of shy to pick up our second and third fouls," Harpring said. "We kind of gave him some easy looks in the first half, and in the second half, we tightened it up a little bit and played him a little more physical."
Utah, which held a 48-21 edge on the boards, has won 12 of 14, seven of eight at home and leads Denver by 11 1/2 games in the Northwest Division. The only two games the team has lost during that stretch both came without the services of Deron Williams.
Now, after three lackluster years following the departures of Karl Malone and John Stockton, the Jazz are on the verge of their first division title in seven years. The team won 42 games but just missed the playoffs in 2003-04, then fell off with 26 wins a year later before evening out at the .500 mark a season ago. But this season, with 22 games still remaining, the Jazz have already reached the 41-mark and counting.
"We're a much better team. We're deeper. We've got guys, especially young guys, that can come in and play," Boozer said. "We have bigger goals than going .500 this year. We're just trying to reach our goals."
Wallace finished with 33 points on 13-of-19 shooting, but the rest of his teammates combined for 18 field goals for Charlotte, which has lost six straight games, including five in a row on this six-game road trek.
"They punished us inside," Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "They did exactly what they were supposed to do. Early in the game, they got the ball inside and we couldn't contest it...We just couldn't match up with what they were doing."
UTAH 120 FINAL
Mar 5 11:30 PM
UTAH 86 END, 3RD QTR
Mar 5 10:55 PM
UTAH 58 HALFTIME
Mar 5 10:12 PM
UTAH 32 END, 1ST QTR
Mar 5 9:40 PM
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