Kirilenko Leads Jazz to Critical Road Win
Utah 105, New Orleans/Oklahoma City 104
OKLAHOMA CITY, April 14 (Ticker) -- Andrei Kirilenko kept the beat going for the Utah Jazz.
Kirilenko scored nine of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and added a key block in the waning seconds as the Jazz rallied for a crucial 105-104 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.
"This win keeps us alive a little bit longer," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "Without this win, we would be dead."
Utah still has an uphill battle as it has road games against conference powers Dallas and San Antonio before closing the season at home against Golden State.
Rookie Deron Williams provided the final of nine lead changes in the fourth quarter by making two free throws with 18 seconds remaining to give Utah a 105-104 advantage.
"I think we are playing our best basketball right now," Williams said. "It's just unfortunate that it didn't come earlier in the year so we weren't on the outside looking in. We haven't made it yet, but we are going to keep fighting."
On the Hornets' ensuing possession, rookie Chris Paul drove to the basket but had his shot swatted by Kirilenko. Paul went to the floor and corralled the loose ball. Following a timeout, Paul threw up an airball on an off-balance shot as time expired.
"I felt that this game was a playoff game for us," Kirilenko said. "We had a tough stretch early in the game, but we stayed together to win. Sometimes you play bad and win, and we got a win."
"Andrei was terrific for us tonight," Sloan said. "He had his hands full with a couple smaller players, but he came through with seven blocked shots and made plays when we needed him to."
David West scored 31 points and Speedy Claxton and Kirk Snyder added 15 apiece for the Hornets (38-41), who fell three games behind Sacramento and will need a miracle to make the postseason.
"This is a tough loss for us," West said. "We really needed this one tonight, and we had our chances. We were up 15 at one point and couldn't hold on. Mathematically we are still alive, but it's really tough."
The Hornets squandered a 54-43 halftime lead in what could prove to be a devastating loss.
"The third quarter did us in once again," Paul said. "We gave up 33 points in the third, and we couldn't get a rebound late in the game. Seventy-nine games into the season, we should have learned to adjust by now. It's a tough loss, but we have to keep playing hard because you don't what is going to happen."