Okur, Jazz rout division-rival NuggetsMar 9, 2008 - 6:55 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- Little - if anything - about Saturday's game would indicate that the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets were within just three games of each other in the fight for the Northwest Division crown entering this contest.
Mehmet Okur caught fire, knocking down six 3-pointers and scoring 27 points to go with 11 boards as the Jazz won a lopsided affair over the division-rival Nuggets, 132-105, at EnergySolutions Arena.
Both teams were coming off huge conference wins the night before, as the Nuggets beat the defending-champion San Antonio Spurs at home and the Jazz went on the road to top the Phoenix Suns, a few days after they beat another probably playoff foe, the Dallas Mavericks.
"It was a big week for us," Williams said. "We played three playoff teams. Any time we play three playoff teams and beat them when the race is this close, it's big for us. It was a great week and it gave us a lot of confidence."
Despite the high profile of Saturday's meeting, the result was all but decided by the opening minutes of the second half.
"We understand that there's 82 games, and that's what happens," Nuggets guard Allen Iverson said. "Some nights you play well, some nights you don't. We just came off two good wins, and now we're coming off a bad loss."
Utah point guard Deron Williams had plenty of targets to hit all night long for the Jazz's offense, which shot 60 percent (50-of-82), including 11-of-15 from the arc.
But he found his biggest weapon in Okur, who hit four 3-pointers in the final four minutes of the first half as Utah's lead ballooned from single digits to 23 by halftime.
"He shot the ball extremely well," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "Deron Williams did a terrific job getting him the basketball and getting him the kind of shots he likes, and he stepped up and knocked them down."
The Jazz picked up right where they left off after the break, scoring the first 10 points of the third, capped by Okur's fifth 3-pointer of the night.
The sharp-shooting 6-11 center didn't let up, knocking down another one from downtown three minutes later to give the Jazz an astounding 37-point lead - their largest of the game.
"We didn't know we were going to come out and win by 30, but we did hope we'd jump on them early," Williams said. "I think we did a good job of that, and we did a good job of closing them out, not letting them make a run like we have in the past."
The blowout win marked Utah's 18th consecutive home victory, just one shy of the club record set more than a decade ago. More importantly, however, the Jazz gained ground in both the division and conference races.
Coupled with New Orleans Hornets' loss to the surging Houston Rockets, the Jazz (42-22) pulled to within one game of the third seed in the West, and now stand just three games behind the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers (44-18).
Utah also increased its lead in the Northwest to four games over Denver (37-25).
"That's one of our goals is to win our division again," Boozer said. "But also we'd like to seal home court and be one of the top four teams in the Western Conference, so we can have home court in case we have to go to a Game Seven in the first round."
Okur's 27-point, 11-rebound performance was his 12th double-double in his last 17 games, after accomplishing the feat just twice over the first 47 games of the season. He led seven Jazz players in double-figures, while Williams had 14 points and 16 assists.
Williams now has 81 assists over his last five contests, an average of 16.2 per game. Over that same span, Jazz opponents have 86 total assists.
Iverson scored 28 points and Carmelo Anthony added 24 for the Nuggets.
UTAH 132 FINAL
Mar 9 12:23 AM
UTAH 108 END, 3RD QTR
Mar 8 11:51 PM
UTAH 77 HALFTIME
Mar 8 11:07 PM
UTAH 34 END, 1ST QTR
Mar 8 10:36 PM
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