Okur's stat line may be misleading
Utah center limiting impact of Spurs' all-star Duncan
He has been the offensive dud of the Western Conference finals for the Utah Jazz.
Arguably, he could also be the momentum-changer in the best-of-seven series that resumed on Monday with the Jazz trailing the San Antonio Spurs 2-1.
Mehmet Okur, the Turkish inside-outside threat, continued his offensive slump in Game 3 Saturday, missing all three of his shots and finishing with no points. He went into Monday's Game 4 averaging 7.0 points on 7-for-31 shooting, including 4-for-12 from 3-point range.
The 6-11, 263-pound veteran center averaged 17.6 points and set a franchise record for most 3-pointers made and attempted in the regular season.
He scored seven points and made Utah's only 3-pointer in Monday's 91-79 loss.
However, Okur's defensive work against Spurs superstar Tim Duncan in a 54-second stretch of the second quarter played a major role in the Jazz's 26-point blowout that got them back into the series.
"Mehmet helped us win and a lot of focus has been on his shooting," said veteran guard Derek Fisher. "That was a perfect example of how you can still help your team and you don't have to make a shot. Guys like Robert Horry and Bruce Bowen, the Spurs don't depend on them to shoot the ball a lot, but they help their team win. Mehmet did that for us."
With 7:59 left in the half and the Spurs ahead 28-24, Okur blocked a Duncan shot, then forced back-to-back turnovers. Before Game 3, coach Jerry Sloan said the Jazz needed to crank up their defense if they were going to compete.
Okur's work was the wakeup call. The Jazz turned defensive in the second half, outscoring the Spurs 66-36. A team that shot 55 percent in the first two games and averaged 106.5 points shot 43.8 percent in Game 3 and totaled 20 turnovers, eight by Duncan.
He got into foul trouble in the second half and finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, Duncan's worst game of the series. "Defensively, he was great," forward Carlos Boozer said of Okur. "I know you are harping on his offense, but his job is to stop Tim Duncan and that's a tall task."
Even Duncan tipped his cap to Okur. "He caused some turnovers. ... They played well on defense. Mehmet did an excellent job. He's good at keeping a hand in there and he got some deflections."
Defense, said Okur, is his job in this series. "I was more focused on him on the defensive end," Okur said. "I didn't want to force the ball on the offensive end. I was focused just on him, tried to push him off the block, make tough shots over my hands."
And offensively? "I didn't want to force it. If they need me out there, I will be out there on the offensive end, too."
Saturday's win gave the Jazz a 7-0 playoff record at home and boosted their confidence before Monday's loss.
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