for this game

Red-hot Jazz continue second-half surge

Mar 1, 2009 - 5:50 AM SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- It's been a month of perpetual change for the Utah Jazz. As February comes to a close, the one thing that has remained consistent is the action on the court.

On the same day they buried their long-time owner, the Jazz kept things rolling and continued their second-half surge Saturday, running past the Sacramento Kings, 102-89, for their seventh straight victory.

"It's good, it's always good," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "We've put together a string of wins, which is what we've talked about doing."

The team began the day with a funeral for Larry H. Miller, the owner who passed away last Friday due to complications from type 2 diabetes, as several players and coaches - both past and present, both in the Utah organization and beyond - paid their respects. The service was held at the arena, which has been home to the Jazz since 1991.

"It was definitely a different day," Jazz swingman Kyle Korver said. "My mom always says, 'Blessed are the flexible,' and so we had to be a little bit flexible today. We all know what Larry meant to this team, this city and this state."

Emotionally drained or not, the Jazz still had a basketball game to play, and when it finally came time, the result was the same as it's been for a solid month - a victory. They got off to a quick start but had to fight off the surprisingly feisty Kings before finally pulling away late.

"Even though their record doesn't show it, they're a really good team," Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer said. "They've got talented guys, guys who can shoot from the perimeter, get to the basket. They've got a lot of young guys with a lot of talent."

Turnovers plagued them for most of the night and free-throw shooting was an issue - two pet peeves for head coach Jerry Sloan.

But the Jazz were able to survive anyway, improving to 10-1 in February as they continue to surge up the Western Conference playoff standings. With the win, they pulled even with idle New Orleans (36-23) for sixth place, while pulling to within three games of Denver (39-20) for the No. 3 spot.

"Every game right now is critical," Jazz forward Carlos Boozer said. "I think down the stretch of the season, obviously we're trying to move up the ladder a little bit, but at the same time we want to get our team right."

The Kings pulled to within a single point with just over four minutes left in the third, as Bobby Jackson went coast to coast and finished strong with a layup in traffic, slicing the deficit to 67-66. But Utah went back to its most automatic weapon all night - sharpshooting center Mehmet Okur.

Williams found Okur on the left wing and he connected for a 3-pointer, extending the lead to four. In the waning seconds of the period, he did it again. With Sacramento within three, Okur called for the ball in the corner and connected again with just two-tenths of a second remaining in the quarter to open up a 79-73 advantage.

"We didn't come out the greatest," Williams said. "We had a couple stretches where we had the lead at eight and we just couldn't get over that hump. Once we did in that second half, we were fine."

Sacramento wouldn't go away, pulling back to within one on recent acquisition Will Solomon's three, but this time it was Brewer - not typically known for his long-range shot - who did the damage, connecting from the arc to spark an 11-0 run to give Utah control for good.

"We passed to him and he made some great cuts," Sloan said of Brewer. "I think that made a big difference and gave us a chance to win. ... He had a terrific game. He got a couple big rebounds for us, a couple big steals."

Brewer set a career high with 26 points and added seven boards and four steals, while Okur scored 26 of his own on 9-of-12 shooting, including a perfect 4-of-4 from the arc. Williams posted his 29th double-double with 16 points and 11 assists.

"We just had some key turnovers and they capitalized on them and you know you can't do that in the fourth quarter," Kings guard Kevin Martin said. "The effort was there, we just have to do a little better job executing in the fourth. Guys played hard tonight."