Okur, Jazz win fourth straight without WilliamsNov 6, 2008 - 6:07 AM SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- They may not be blowing anyone away, but the Utah Jazz are surviving the absence of star point guard Deron Williams.
Mehmet Okur collected 22 points and nine boards Wednesday as the Jazz edged the Portland Trail Blazers, 103-96, improving to 4-0 without their injured floor general.
"I was really pleased with their effort. Everybody seemed to be involved," Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan said. "Whoever was out there on the floor was focused on trying to win. That's what gives you a chance."
Williams, who is recovering from a sprained left ankle, is still a few days away from returning to the lineup. While his replacement, Ronnie Price, continued to struggle from the floor, Utah got production from everywhere else and hit clutch free throws down the stretch.
All-Star Carlos Boozer - who finished with 20 points and eight rebounds - helped seal the win in the final minute.
With his team clinging to a one-point advantage, he dropped in a layup to push the lead to 99-96 with 29 seconds remaining. One possession later, he drained a pair of foul shots as Portland dropped its third game in four chances.
"The guys are stepping up and playing great, no matter who is on the floor," Boozer said. "We are going to try and do the best we can to win the game, and that's what we have been doing. I take my hat off to my teammates. We did a great job of staying in there and hanging with it. We fought back, got the lead and won the game."
The Trail Blazers took a four-point lead into the final frame but couldn't hold it. With the game tied at 82-82 with about seven minutes remaining, the Jazz took the lead for good on Andrei Kirilenko's free throw and Okur's 3-pointer. Travis Outlaw answered for Portland moments later, connecting from the arc to cut the deficit to one.
But free-throw shooting gave Utah the edge. Over the next two minutes, Kirilenko drained four foul shots, Okur added a pair and Ronnie Brewer drove the lane for a three-point play to give the Jazz a five-point cushion at 95-90.
"We started making them shoot contested shots, hands in their face and breaking out. We had a couple of fast breaks. Ronnie Brewer got a couple of dunks," Boozer said. "For us, when we get stops, sometimes that can affect our offense, and that's what happened. We finally got over the hump and kept our lead."
While the Jazz have yet to put together an offensive performance customary of last year's group, they have impressively weathered the storm without their best player. That has a lot to do with their team defense - which ironically was their Achilles heel last season. Utah is holding opponents to just 85.5 points per game in four games this year.
"We just hung in there, and they kept trying to execute," Sloan said. "We turned the ball over a couple of times. The biggest thing is we just kept playing - playing them as hard as we could on the defensive end."
The Trail Blazers stayed in the game largely on the strength of their perimeter shooting, as they connected on 10-of-19 from the arc overall.
"We did some good things. We just didn't do it enough, we didn't do it long enough," Portland head coach Nate McMillan said. "We had control of this game at the half, we had control of this game in the third quarter, we just didn't put it away."
The Jazz's shooters stayed hot from pretty much everywhere. As a team, Utah shot 53 percent (39-of-74) and was an almost immaculate 21-of-22 from the foul line.
Williams, who led an offense that averaged 106.2 points per game last season, is getting closer and closer to re-joining his teammates on the court. While he originally pegged Wednesday as a possible target date for his return, but the team's success in his absence has given the 24-year-old Olympian a bit of a grace period.
He still may come back on Friday when Utah hosts the Oklahoma City Thunder, but it has yet to be officially determined. The Jazz will likely need his services next week when they begin a five-game East Coast road trip.
Price started his fourth straight game Wednesday but went just 1-of-6 from the field, finishing with two points and four assists. Backup Brevin Knight - whom the Jazz picked up in an offseason trade with the Los Angeles Clippers - played the bulk of the minutes down the stretched and finished with six points, six assists and three steals.
Kirilenko chipped in with 17 points for the Jazz, while Brewer added 16 and six assists.
"I think we were active and had a lot of deflections," Okur said. "We were active on the glass. We did a good job at helping each other on the defensive end. It was a nice game."
Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge scored 18 apiece for the Trail Blazers, while center Joel Przybilla - filling in for injured starter Greg Oden - collected seven and 16 boards.
"It's painful. We're not executing right now," Roy said. "We've got to do a better job on the road when the crowd gets loud. We can't panic, we've got to stick to what we're doing. We panicked."
UTAH 103 FINAL
Nov 5 11:29 PM
UTAH 74 END, 3RD QTR
Nov 5 10:48 PM
UTAH 45 HALFTIME
Nov 5 10:07 PM
UTAH 23 END, 1ST QTR
Nov 5 9:38 PM
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