Carlos Boozer hasn't always been known for his defense, but when he was switched to guarding Tim Duncan, maybe the top player in the NBA, on Wednesday night in the EnergySolutions Arena, it seemed to make a huge difference.
Mainly against Mehmet Okur, a man more Duncan's 6-foot-11 size who started on him, Duncan scored 10 first-quarter points and moved toward the basket to draw fouls. He did the same in the second quarter against other Jazz big men.
But after Boozer took a turn at Duncan late in the second quarter, Duncan cooled considerably for much of the rest of the game, and that was instrumental in the Utah Jazz's 83-75 comeback victory over San Antonio to break a two-game Utah losing streak and give a two-game losing streak to the Spurs.
Boozer refused to accept any credit for defending Duncan or to say how he did it, but his strength and low defensive stance seemed to hold Duncan away from the easy low-post moves.
Duncan still finished with 21 points on 7-for-16 shooting and seven free throws, and he had 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots. Boozer continued his double-double ways with 23 points (10-for-16) and 16 boards as well as two steals and two blocks.
One of Boozer's first acts was to pop the ball up and away from Duncan on the low block for a steal with 3:33 left in the second quarter, and he used a similar tactic for his second steal from Duncan with 5:17 left in the game and Utah trying to protect a 69-68 lead.
That steal led to a Matt Harpring layup from Andrei Kirilenko, and then Boozer blocked a Duncan 10-foot shot attempt to get a jump ball. Duncan got the tip, but Tony Parker was called for carrying the ball seconds later, and another Harpring basket gave Utah a five-point lead.
"We lost because we turned it over at critical times in the fourth quarter," said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich.
"Two turnovers, and the game's right there," said Spurs guard Tony Parker.
"Boozer played a great game," said Duncan curtly.
"(His) quick hands are compounded with getting hit on the elbow and the arm and not getting (fouls) called.
"So he played the right way. He made the plays, and they (officials) didn't blow the whistle, so in that respect, he did a good job," Duncan said.
"You've got to do what you can. He's a heckuva ballplayer," said Boozer about Duncan. "I'm not going to say (I had) success or not success (against him). We have to play them again, so I'm not going to let you say that in the paper.
"You just have to be active. That's all I'm going to say. My teammates did a great job of digging it out. As a group, we did a great job playing defense."
Boozer's teammate guard Derek Fisher said that defense was "the biggest key. Carlos was doing a great job on Duncan in the second half, and Harpring hit the boards for us and Deron (Williams) did a great job on Parker.Comment on this story
"It was like a heavyweight boxing match. Whichever team could take the most punches was going to win," said Fisher.
Boozer did get some help in defense against Duncan, but surely he had Duncan out of his comfort zone just two nights after having played active young Orlando center Dwight Howard.
Duncan is a tougher assignment because as a nine-year NBA icon, "he's more skilled. Timmy has everything: jump shot, left hook, right hook, off the backboard, spin move," said Boozer who was appreciative of the man's arsenal."It was a battle. He's one of the best players to ever play the game."