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Boozer's career night leads Jazz over Wizards

Mar 27, 2007 - 5:57 AM SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) Carlos Boozer needed some time to warm up. Once he did, he was nearly unstoppable.

Boozer scored a career-high 41 points - 36 in the second half - as the Utah Jazz notched a 103-97 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Deron Williams scored 16 points and dished out 13 assists, and Derek Fisher hit a backbreaking 3-pointer and two clinching free throws in the final minute as the Jazz won for the 12th time in their last 13 home games.

"That was a terrific win for us, especially the way we played most of the ballgame," Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan said. "We finally fought back. Boozer had a tremendous second half. ... He just seemed to take the game over.

After going into the half with just five points, Boozer scored 13 of Utah's 18 points in a third-quarter 18-8 run that erased a 10-point Wizards' lead and tied the game at 64-64. He scored 20 points in the period.

"I picked up my energy, my focus," Boozer said. "I started being more aggressive, taking it to the hoop, (got) more confident in my jump shot. ... My teammates kept coming to me and I was putting it in."

The Jazz suffered through a porous first half, scoring just 35 points to go into the half down by six. But thanks to Boozer and Williams, the Jazz matched that total in the third quarter alone.

Boozer's 41-point night marked the first time that a Utah player has reached the 40-point plateau since Karl Malone scored 40 against Orlando on March 21, 2003.

"Booz came alive and took over the game for us. He was just a monster tonight," Williams said. "We knew who had the hot hand so we weren't going to try to go away from that. He hit almost every shot he took."

In a back-and-forth final period, there were four ties and five lead changes, but it all came down to a few key plays in the final 90 seconds of play.

Gilbert Arenas scored 32 points on 8-of-20 shooting and was 14-of-17 from the free-throw line, but was doomed by a key miss at the stripe and a late offensive foul.

With the Wizards down, 96-94, Arenas went to the line and made his first foul shot but missed the second. On the next possession, Utah's Mehmet Okur found teammate Derek Fisher in the corner and he buried a 3-pointer that effectively sealed the win.

"Memo and I made eye contact as Deron was dribbling the ball down," Fisher said. "He knew that they were going to rotate to him, so he made the swing pass and those are shots that I've made before."

However, the Wizards were still within four with 16 seconds to play before Arenas - driving quickly down the court looking to knock down a three-pointer - was called for an offensive foul, putting the ball back in Utah's hands. Boozer's final points were a pair of clinching free throws.

"I pushed off," Arenas said of the call that caused him to foul out. "I stuck my hand out there. I thought that I was ahead of the ref. I was just trying to nudge him a little bit because he was already backpedaling - just give him a little nudge."

The Wizards have lost three in a row and fell out of the top spot in the Southeast Division, where they have been since January 15. The Miami Heat beat Atlanta, 106-89, on Monday to take over first place. The Wizards fell into the sixth playoff spot with the loss.

"Right now, we're in sixth, again behind Miami ... (but) we're not worrying about where we are," Arenas said. "It's winning time. Teams have caught us, and now we just have to battle. We have to position ourselves where we can be successful. We have to just keep playing hard."

Washington guard DeShawn Stevenson had a big game against his former team, scoring 21 points after managing just 15 combined in his last three contests.

Antawn Jamison added 20 points and eight rebounds for the Wizards, who were without Caron Butler for the sixth straight game due to a left knee contusion.

The Jazz held a 50-40 edge on the glass against the Wizards, who are now just 4-18 when they are outrebounded. The teams were identical on the foul line, both knocking down 33-of-45 free throws.

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    UTAH 103 FINAL

    Mar 26 11:39 PM
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    Wizards vs. JazzMar 26 11:33 PM
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    Wizards vs. JazzMar 26 11:24 PM

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    UTAH 70 END, 3RD QTR

    Mar 26 10:55 PM

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    Mar 26 10:09 PM

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    UTAH 13 END, 1ST QTR

    Mar 26 9:37 PM