The Utah Jazz have had one of the NBA's most efficient offenses despite a subpar season from Mehmet Okur. Now that Okur appears to be returning to form, the Northwest Division leaders seem even more dangerous.
Okur looks to continue his hot streak as the Jazz visit the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday in search of their sixth straight win.
Utah (42-22) is atop the Northwest thanks in part to an offense that leads the league in field-goal percentage at 49.7 and ranks among the league leaders with 106.3 points per game.
The Jazz have compiled those statistics despite Okur's struggles. After scoring 18.0 points per game in 2005-06, and 17.6 last season, the 6-foot-11 center from Turkey is averaging only 14.0 points while shooting 44.0 percent from the field - his lowest percentage since he shot 42.6 percent as a rookie with Detroit in 2002-03.
Lately, however, Okur has found his range to help Utah's offense become even more potent. The Jazz are scoring 118.4 points per game and shooting 55.6 percent in going 5-0 this month. During that stretch, Okur is averaging 20.8 points and shooting 58.3 percent - including 11-for-20 from 3-point range.
Okur was one of seven Jazz players to score in double figures and one of four to record a double-double as he went 9-for-11 from the field with 27 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high six 3-pointers in Utah's 132-105 rout of division rival Denver on Saturday.
"He has such a unique dimension he brings to our team," said Utah forward Kyle Korver after the team recorded its second-highest scoring output of the season. "I don't care who you are. If somebody's hitting that many 3s (against you), it's deflating."
The Jazz have shot 50 percent or better from the field in each game during their winning streak. It's their longest such streak since they made at least half of their shots in seven straight games from Feb. 27-March 9, 1997.
They'll try to extend the run of success against a Chicago team that has struggled defensively. The Bulls (25-38) allowed Detroit to shoot 50.6 percent in their 116-109 loss on Sunday - the second consecutive game they've given up 116 points.
"Until our defense picks up, it is going to be a struggle for us," said Bulls coach Jim Boylan, whose club fell 116-93 at Boston on Friday. "We had so many breakdowns that they were just able to drive by us. That was disappointing."
Chicago's defensive struggles have overshadowed Ben Gordon's strong play over the last week. The Bulls' sixth man is averaging 23.3 points and shooting 56.8 percent (25-for-44) from the field - including 58.8 percent (10-for-17) from beyond the arc - in his last three games.
Utah beat Chicago 97-87 at home on Feb. 9. Okur was held to seven points in that game, but All-Star forward Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 12 boards as the Jazz beat the Bulls for the fourth consecutive time overall.
Thabo Sefolosha led the Bulls with 22 points in the Feb. 9 loss, but remains day-to-day with a groin strain that has kept him out of Chicago's last six contests.
Copyright 2007 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited