SALT LAKE CITY, Jan. 10 (Ticker) --
Behind a big night from Mehmet Okur
the Utah Jazz did something they haven't done in nearly five
years - beat the San Antonio Spurs.
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Okur scored 23 points, including a game-winning follow shot as
time expired, as the Jazz snapped an 18-game losing skid to the
Spurs with a 97-96 victory.
"That was a huge game for us, a great game, especially against a
team like San Antonio," Okur said. "It's what we needed."
Utah also ended a nine-game slide, their longest losing streak
since the 1981-82 season. The Jazz last beat the Spurs on
February 6, 2000. Only one player from that 1999-2000 team,
, is on the current Utah roster, and he was just
brought back by the Jazz this season after four seasons
"This was a great win for these guys," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan
said. "I thought we did a terrific job trying to execute coming
down the stretch. ... These guys are really excited, and I'm
really excited for them because they really deserve it. Tonight,
they deserve this reward because they stayed with it for the
full 48 minutes."
While battling with an injury-depleted lineup, they were without
, Matt Harpring
, and Raja Bell
, it looked like
the Jazz would fall short once again in this one.
followed his own blocked shot with a layup to give
the Spurs a 96-95 lead with 47 seconds remaining. The teams
traded misses on the next two possessions, and Okur grabbed a
rebound with 12 seconds left to give the Jazz the final
possession. Second-year point guard Keith McLeod
, who had one of
his best games since taking over the starting job, brought the
ball upcourt and called timeout with 7.4 seconds on the clock.
McLeod took the ensuing inbounds pass from Okur and drove on
down the middle of the lane. He threw up a leaner
that missed, but the ball bounced right to Okur, and he put in
the game-winning bucket.
set a screen for me, I got the ball up top and tried to
get to the bucket. That was pretty much it," McLeod said. "It
was like slow motion. After I missed the shot, I was still
looking, and I saw Mehmet come out of nowhere and grab it and
put it back in. It was great. I might take him out to a Turkish
restaurant tonight if we can find one."
"I had seven offensive rebounds tonight, so I was going up for
every ball. I just want to always be there," Okur said. "I tried
to create second shots for my teammates, and tonight, I was
there at the end."
Okur was the spark in Utah's 44-12 advantage in bench scoring,
and he also added 11 rebounds. He had the unenviable task of
guarding two-time league MVP Duncan for most of the night.
While Duncan had 24 points and 13 boards, Okur made his share of
plays as well, grabbing two of his seven offensive boards over
Duncan in the final 1:03 of the fourth quarter and scoring
baskets after each one.
"It was hard, because he's one of the best players in the
world," Okur said. "My job was to try to push him out of the
lane and make him shoot over my head, and that wasn't easy."
"When you play against Tim Duncan, you have to play 120% if you
want to guard him, and if you want to score against him," said
Jazz guard Gordan Giricek, who scored 13 before fouling out.
"Mehmet stepped up today. He made all the adjustments on offense
McLeod, one of four players to start at point guard for the Jazz
this year, scored a career-high 18 points and dished out four
assists while committing just one turnover.
The Jazz, who committed 19 turnovers in a 109-76 loss to the
Spurs earlier this year, had just eight turnovers Monday night
and had five players in double-figures.
"A lot of credit goes to those guys," Duncan said. "I thought
they played well the entire game. They made tough shots the
entire game. We fought back into it, gave ourselves an
opportunity, but they never let up."
Utah led for most of the game after the first quarter before San
Antonio finally took a lead midway through the fourth quarter.
The Jazz, who have made a habit of squandering late leads this
season, didn't let the Spurs take one away from them this time,
and they snapped a pair of losing streaks in the process. The
victory was their first since a 103-101 win over Philadelphia on
"I'm happy for them, in a strange sort of way," Spurs coach
Gregg Popovich said. "It was a great game, a thrill for Utah.
They played undermanned obviously, three of their top players
weren't out there. But they rose to the occasion, played
physically, executed well, and did a good job. They deserved to