for this game

Shorthanded Jazz overcome lowly Clippers

Mar 29, 2008 - 5:55 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- More than half of the Utah Jazz's starting lineup was injured or under the weather Friday night. Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams were all that were left and, as it turned out, were all that were needed.

Boozer had 34 points and 17 rebounds and Williams had 32 and 10 assists as the shorthanded Jazz sailed past the Los Angeles Clippers, 121-101, at EnergySolutions Arena.

Former All-Star center Mehmet Okur and second-year guard Ronnie Brewer were both scratched from the lineup after falling ill with a stomach virus, and Andrei Kirilenko played just nine minutes before leaving with muscle cramps in his right calf.

That left it up to Boozer, Williams and a host of role players, who were more than up to the task.

"We tried to step up for our teammates," Boozer said. "The great thing about it is we were able to take our game to another level. We both did that tonight."

The victory proved critical for Utah in the Western Conference playoff standings, which remained clogged. Earlier on Friday, the top-seeded New Orleans Hornets lost on the road to Boston, and for Utah - currently sitting in the fourth spot - home court proved to be a godsend once again.

As the Jazz improved to a league-best 32-4 at home, they pulled to within two games of the Hornets (49-22) and San Antonio Spurs (50-23) for the top spot, though they remain one game behind the Los Angeles Lakers (49-24) for the third spot.

"We're fighting for home-court advantage. I think that's our goal right now," Williams said. "We're not just trying to get into the playoffs."

The Spurs are percentage points behind the Hornets for the No. 1 seed.

Williams single-handedly set the tone for the Jazz, erasing an early three-point deficit by scoring eight straight points in a matter of 55 seconds - driving inside for a layup one possession, burying a 3-pointer the next and capping the run with three free throws.

"The shot felt good tonight," Williams said. "I felt I had to score a little more tonight because we had so many guys out."

He and Boozer combined to shoot 17-of-22 in the first half alone, scoring 40 of the team's 56 points. The Clippers never found an answer.

The only time they threatened was early in the third quarter, as Corey Maggette scored seven points in a 9-4 mini-run which cut the deficit to just eight.

"I just attacked (the basket). I was aggressive," Maggette said. "I'm not going to give up."

But Williams answered on back-to-back possessions, burying a deep 3-pointer and adding another 19-footer as the Jazz opened up a double-digit lead for good.

"It was great for him to take over," Boozer said. "I told him all night, 'Keep attacking, they can't stop you.' And he did."

With the Jazz heading out on the road for a Sunday afternoon tilt against Minnesota, the status of Brewer and Okur remains up in the air.

Okur had previously battled a flu that limited his action last week against the Raptors and Clippers, but came back strong this week against Seattle and Charlotte before getting sick again - this time, not long before tip off.

"A lot of this happened just before the game. It's not like you have the afternoon to prepare for it," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "You walk in the locker room and Memo's not able to play, and Ronnie Brewer hasn't been able to show up at the game because he's sick at home.

"That shows you how fast things can change in a short period of time. The important thing is coming away with a win."

Maggette led the Clippers with 28, going 16-of-19 from the foul line, while Chris Kaman added 16, seven boards and six assists.

  • NBA
    UTAH 121 FINAL

    Mar 28 11:26 PM

  • NBA
    UTAH 90 END, 3RD QTR

    Mar 28 10:58 PM

  • NBA

    Mar 28 10:14 PM

  • NBA
    UTAH 31 END, 1ST QTR

    Mar 28 9:39 PM