Kirilenko kick-starts Jazz
Andrei scores 21, ties career highs for rebounds (16) and blocks (8) in victory
Andrei Kirilenko will have to watch out.
If he plays like he did Wednesday like the Kirilenko of two years ago he may get an odd present from coach Jerry Sloan.
After a recent talk with Kirilenko as the young forward was trying to find his way in the Jazz offense, Sloan said he's been satisfied with Kirilenko's progress.
"He's tried to do it, and I've tried to do my side of it," Sloan said.
"I told him, 'It doesn't make any difference to me.
" 'I'll kiss you out in front of State Street or out on any street you want if that makes you play harder. My job is to win. It's not to come in second.' "
He didn't Wednesday.
The Jazz downed the Portland Trailblazers 82-77 in the Delta Center to finish off a five-game homestand and move their record to 10-12, while Portland, which led by 11 early, fell to 6-15.
The Jazz now make their five-game pre-Christmas Eastern road trip starting Friday night at Indianapolis. Their next home game is Dec. 26 against Memphis.
"I've never coached a guy yet that I've wanted to fail," said Sloan, who got a lot of success from Kirilenko the last several nights with Wednesday being a high-water mark.
Along with big games from Jarron Collins and Memo Okur, Kirilenko kick-started the Jazz at the end of the first half, which ended with them ahead 44-43, and they were never again headed, though the Blazers came close.
Kirilenko tied career highs with 16 rebounds and eight blocked shots while scoring 21 points, tying Okur for high points. He also had three assists and two steals and probably led the club in energy.
"When we keep our tempo up, we are almost unbeatable," said a happy Kirilenko, overstating things just a bit.
He thought he should have had another block. "They stole a block on a 24-second violation," he said, but actually it was because of that block that the Blazers got the clock violation, and it did count.
He also thanked Sloan for keeping him on the floor a lot lately.
Kirilenko said the Jazz were playing hard and with focus, "not for the whole game but most of it."
Now, he wants to see consistency from himself and the team.
But at least this was a game with enough exciting moments 13 blocked shots overall, three from Okur, and a technical foul on Portland coach Nate McMillan plus some spectacular Jazz movesthat had the crowd standing and cheering.
Collins, who's played strongly the last five games with double figures in scoring or rebounding, made five of his seven shots and scored 15 points with seven boards before fouling out late.
He was most happy, though, with taking four charges against the Blazers, things that get under the other team's skin "Those give us momentum and extra possessions," he said, noting that while opponents don't fear him as a shot-blocker, "They're still looking for me.
"Statistics are nice, but I take more pride in the things that don't go in the stats, like the charges."
Told he had at least three, he corrected that to four.
"He has been unbelievable for two games a beast on rebounding," said Kirilenko.
"He is one of the best players for me doing the dirty work. He's not a dirty player," he quickly added, but, "(his) creating offensive fouls is very important."
"He's never really been to full strength in the last two or three years," Sloan said of Collins. "He's had a lot of injuries. That's the unfortunate thing. He's given his body up to try and take fouls, try to do the right thing to play this game.
"It's amazing that Jarron Collins can be effective in this league with no more talent that he has except his (6-foot-10) size."
Utah started rather poorly perhaps a reflection of the turmoil earlier in the day with all the questions about Robert Whaley but when Sloan reinserted four starters to go with Kirilenko with about eight minutes to go in the first half and Portland ahead 32-21, Utah righted its ship.
"All of a sudden, we remembered how to play with energy," said Okur, who scored 15 the first half on 6-for-10 accuracy.
Kirilenko had a double-double by halftime.
Guard Deron Williams got the Jazz started with a 16-footer from Okur on an inbounds play, and Utah reeled off six straight points, pushing the ball hard. and making some rather spectacular plays.
Okur made a fast-lane layin from Williams to bring the crowd to its feet. Devin Brown made the next one on the Jazz's next possession, running the lane and snagging a ball thrown behind him by Okur and still making a layin.
Okur then threaded a baseline pass across the lane to Kirilenko to cut the Portland lead to 38-35. Kirilenko's next basket was a rebound shot flung into the air.Utah went ahead by as many as 10 early in the second half, but Portland quickly cut it to one a couple of times. A 3-pointer from Brown jumped it back to four, and the Jazz stayed ahead by at least two from then on.
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