for this game

Jazz rout Spurs to start tough stretch

Apr 5, 2008 - 4:08 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- The Utah Jazz have passed the first test. Now, there's five more to go.

Facing a six-game stretch against six Western Conference playoff teams to close the regular season, the Jazz got a tough one out of the way Friday night, storming past the defending champion San Antonio Spurs for a shockingly lopsided, 90-64, victory.

"It was a must-win game for us," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "A great second half for us as a team. ... We stepped it up and got the crowd into it in the second half. It was a great team effort."

The typically offensive-minded Jazz - the fifth highest-scoring team in the NBA at 107.1 points per contest - had to slug it out for 2 1/2 quarters before taking control in the third.

Andrei Kirilenko, Williams and Kyle Korver each knocked down 3-pointers in the last three minutes of the third as the Jazz took an 11-point lead.

"The ball went inside nice, came back out, we hit a couple of 3-point shots, and that's what I like to see," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.

And that was just the appetizer.

With Utah's perimeter shooting opening things up offensively, Williams and the Jazz were able to get out and run for the first time all night - and in doing so, all but put the Spurs away.

"They beat us in every possible aspect of the game," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "They were more aggressive than us. They wanted the game more than us. ... In the second half, we just turned the ball over (and) couldn't make a shot."

Kirilenko swiped Ginobili to open up the final period to start a fast break the other way. Appropriately, Williams found Kirilenko for an alley-oop dunk to jump-start a 13-0 run.

Matt Harpring blocked a Jacque Vaughn layup moments later and finished another fast break with an open lay-in, and Kirilenko followed with a three-point play as Utah's lead which was just two at the break suddenly ballooned to 20 at the 9:30 mark of the fourth.

At that point, the Spurs essentially called uncle.

Ginobili headed to the bench to join teammates Duncan and Parker - both of whom sat out the entire fourth - and the Spurs wound up scoring just nine points the entire quarter. Their 64 total points tied the franchise's all-time, single-game low.

"It's the NBA, and there's 82 games, and it's the fourth quarter and (the Jazz) played their (butt) off," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "I mean, the third quarter's where they kicked our (butt)."

Though points were harder to come by than usual for the Jazz, they had more than enough options down the stretch.

The resurgent Mehmet Okur had 17 points and 16 rebounds, while Williams collected 16 and 11 assists for his 50th double-double of the season, tied with teammate Carlos Boozer and New Orleans' Chris Paul for third in the league.

It's now or never for the Jazz to make a move toward the top of the Western Conference standings. Closing the regular season against six consecutive Western playoff teams, they'll have every opportunity.

"We've got to do it on the road. We've still got some tough road games, and we've got to prove we can win on the road," Williams said. "That's the question pretty much everyone has for us - can we win on the road? It's going to be a good test."

Friday's showdown was the first of two meetings with Spurs during the stretch; the two teams close the regular season with a meeting in San Antonio.

"Every game is going to be (important) for us," Boozer said. "This is the kind of preparation we want for the playoffs. We knocked one down and we have another one coming up at their place, and we haven't been very successful there, but we're looking forward to that."

The victory also gave the Jazz a 2-1 edge in the season series between the two clubs, and also spoiled a chance for San Antonio to clinch a playoff spot.

Tony Parker scored 17 points and Tim Duncan added 15 and 10 rebounds for the Spurs.

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