Boozer, Okur spark Jazz to victoryMar 26, 2008 - 5:47 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) - It's merely the calm before the storm, but the Utah Jazz are doing exactly what they need to do.
In the second game of what is arguably their softest stretch of the season, the Utah Jazz handled another opponent in fairly routine fashion, avenging an embarrassing December loss to the Charlotte Bobcats with a 128-106 home victory over Charlotte Tuesday night.
Mehmet Okur, still recovering from a debilitating stomach flu, had his second big night in a row, scoring 20 points to go with 10 rebounds and Carlos Boozer had 28 and 13 to lead a balanced Utah attack that featured seven players in double figures.
"We're just going to keep playing, keep executing, keep defending like we did and keep sharing the ball try to get sharpened up for that last 10, 12 days or so when we've got some tougher teams," Boozer said. "Hopefully we can continue to win while we get better."
Okur found his stride in the second quarter with 13 points and a pair of 3-point buckets as Utah took control early, and held on to it for most of the night.
Though the victory was hardly surprising, it came in the middle of what may prove to be a crucial stretch for the Jazz. Beginning last Saturday night, the club embarked on a seven-game stretch in which it faces many of the league's bottom-feeders, including the lowly Seattle SuperSonics, Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves (twice).
However, the Jazz then close the regular season against six consecutive Western Conference contenders a stretch that will likely go a long way to determining playoff seeding. "We've definitely got to take care of business. We can't have any slip-ups," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "We've already lost to the Clippers and Minnesota, [and] those are the next two teams we've got. So we've got to stay focused. We've got to make sure we have that same energy that we do when we're playing Boston and San Antonio and people like that."
After beating Seattle by 14 Saturday, the Jazz looked well on their way to another lopsided win Tuesday, leading by 20 after three quarters. But the Bobcats marched right back against the suddenly flat Jazz squad.
"There were spots in the game where we got a little lackadaisical and turned the ball over," Williams said. "You can't do that against a team like this because they'll race it up and shoot threes, and if they're hitting, they can put points on the board quick."
Earl Boykins scored nine points and Gerald Wallace added five during a 20-6 run, as Charlotte cut its deficit to just 101-98 midway through the fourth.
"I thought the guys came back in and closed it to a three-point game and just did a heck of a job," Charlotte head coach Sam Vincent said. "They really pushed the ball in transition, made some difficult plays, they got some stops on defense and, I mean, they really played well."
But the Jazz sprang back to life just in time, responding with a rare five-point possession.
Andrei Kirilenko got things started by slashing to the lane and dropping in a lay-up, drawing a foul in the process. He missed the foul shot, but Boozer collected the rebound and, seconds later, Kyle Korver drained a 3-pointer to give Utah a bit of breathing room.
"We have some guys that are able to command some attention, and I was just able to spot up," Korver said.
The Bobcats were never much of a threat thereafter. Korver knocked down two more 3-pointers and Williams added another with just over two minutes remaining to put the Jazz on top by 17.
"Fortunately, Boozer got a couple of big rebounds, so we were able to get the ball back outside, and he got a couple baskets inside," Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan said. "And then Kyle made some big shots that kind of broke their back."
Williams dished out six assists in the final quarter alone, finishing with 14 points and 15 assists. Kirilenko had 16 points, four boards and three blocks for Utah.
Jason Richardson led the Bobcats with 26, while Wallace chipped in with 21.
UTAH 128 FINAL
Mar 25 11:26 PM
UTAH 92 END, 3RD QTR
Mar 25 10:51 PM
UTAH 58 HALFTIME
Mar 25 10:08 PM
UTAH 27 END, 1ST QTR
Mar 25 9:34 PM
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