Okur Leads Jazz Past Former Team
Utah 92, Detroit 78
SALT LAKE CITY, Dec. 12 (Ticker) -- After a slow first half, the Utah Jazz took a page out of the Detroit Pistons' guide to success.
Mehmet Okur scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Andrei Kirilenko added 22, 12, seven assists and four blocks as the Jazz used a brilliant second-half effort to pull away for a 92-78 victory over the Pistons.
Entering with a league-best 15-2 mark, Detroit had won six games in a row overall and 10 of 11 on the road this season.
The first half appeared as if it would be the same story for the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions, who held a 51-38 lead at intermission. But their fortunes changed greatly after that.
"Like coach (Jerry Sloan) said before the game, 'You've gotta get yourself ready because Detroit comes to play night in, night out,'" Jazz guard Milt Palacio said. "I think tonight, we answered the bell. Coach said not to be intimidated by these guys, and we weren't."
The Jazz opened the second half with 10 straight points and outscored the Pistons, 25-15, in the third quarter behind nine points by Kirilenko, who was held to five in the opening half.
"We were disappointed in what we did at the end of the first half," Sloan said. "Fortunately, right off the bat in the third quarter, we came right back and got back in the ballgame like we're supposed to do." "We still had a great first half, had the lead, had what we wanted," Pistons guard Chauncey Billups said. "But in that first five minutes (of the second half), they just were playing a little harder than us. That's really not characteristic of us."
The fourth quarter was much of the same for Utah, which resorted to the qualities that have epitomized the Pistons over the last several years - clutch shooting, dominant rebounding and hard-nosed defense.
After Richard Hamilton made a runner to give Detroit a 70-67 lead with 10:05 remaining, Utah went on a 15-2 run to take control of the game. A former Piston, Okur had six points in the burst, while Kirilenko added four, including a layup to cap the run with 5:38 to go.
"Andrei was sensational," said Sloan, whose team had dropped five of its last seven games. "He probably played the best basketball game that he's played in a long time. He had the basketball in his hands and did some nice things when he had it."
The Jazz held the Pistons to 27 points on 9-of-32 (28 percent) shooting in the second half and outrebounded Detroit by a stunning 17-3 margin in the fourth quarter en route to an overall 55-27 advantage on the boards.
"I think we stopped them defensively, first of all. We just executed and played physical defensively," said Kirilenko, who set a new season high for points. "Detroit plays as physical as anybody in the NBA. We needed to play so physical and match them, because Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace, they play hard, especially under the basket."
Largely responsible for the rebounding edge was Jarron Collins, who grabbed a career-high 14 in 35 minutes. His increased playing time was due to the absence of Greg Ostertag, who left 2 1/2 minutes into the game with a sore knee.
"We were active on the glass. Jarron did a great job coming off the bench - he was huge for us," said Okur, who played 47 minutes. "We were active, so we gave up only 27 second-half points. It was a huge game for us."
It was an uncharacteristic effort for the Jazz, who have had problems playing from behind all season. Even when Utah has held a lead, its young team has consistently been unable to put teams away.
But that was not the case Monday, as the Pistons never got closer than eight after the the Jazz's big run put them up by double digits.
"I hope we grew up from that. Hopefully that was a lesson," Sloan said. "(In) this second half, they seemed to have the idea that if we make a mistake, then we pull for each other and we play through it."
Matt Harpring added 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench for the Jazz, who also played without rookie point guard Deron Williams (ear infection).
"We are a real inconsistent team, and a performance like this makes us happy," Kirilenko said. "I think this was a terrific performance and all we need to do is just keep it up."
The Pistons were led by Rasheed Wallace and Hamilton, who scored 16 points apiece. None of Detroit's starters connected on better than 42 percent of their shots, including Billups, who made just 3-of-13 shots en route to 14 points.
"We played hard against them," Collins said. "They seemed to get frustrated with some of the calls out there, and we were able to feed off their frustration and keep the momentum going. Everybody played real well."