Kirilenko plays best game of the season
Hornacek credited for big improvement in shooting prowess
Two assists, a rebound and then one pretty 3-point shot. A block, another assist and a layup.
That was the first six minutes of Andrei Kirilenko's game Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena against the Sacramento Kings.
Kirilenko finished with a season high in points at 25, four better than his previous best, and he barely missed the basket all night while also compiling six rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots in Utah's 127-113 win over the Kings.
He agreed. It was probably his best game of the season.
"Well, maybe yes," he said, "because I've been hitting mid-range, 3-points, inside, free throws.
"Thank you, Jeff Hornacek. I'll keep shooting," Kirilenko said about his part-time shooting coach, who worked with him again Thursday morning before practice.
Kirilenko made six of his eight field-goal attempts, was 3-for-4 on threes getting his own rebound on the one he missed and made 10 of his 12 free throws.
"They kind of aggressive defensively," he said of the Kings, "trying to get a physical game, so every time I got a ball, a guy was hanging on me. I was supposed to make a move to get the guy off me. Get to the free-throw line."
Last year, those free throws and other shots were more iffy.
"It's all here," Kirilenko said, pointing to his left temple.
"It's all in your head. It's confidence," and that as much as anything has been what Hornacek has been able to accomplish with a player who was frustrated last season, when he was shooting .210 less from the field than he is now (492) and when he made only .213 of his threes, as opposed to the .362 he's shooting now from long distance. At the line, he's hitting .785; last season it was .728.
"As much as I'm working with Jeff, you know, it's just like give me those little something, that you can shoot, you can make those shots, even in hard position," said Kirilenko, who took the ball to the basket a number of times Friday, resulting in four more free throws made than his previous season high.
"We didn't do anything special," Kirilenko said of Hornacek's tutelage. "We're just shooting in different kind of sets, imitating our sets, our Jazz plays. Helps."
Hornacek has even been helping him with the footwork on plays and ways to be able to come off screens and cut without allowing an opponent to be able to steal the ball. "I never get it in the game, though," a laughing Kirilenko said of the spin move, "but I'm working on it."
Not even the antics of the Kings' Ron Artest, whom he guarded at times and was fouled by at times, threw Kirilenko off.
"Well, it's very hard to get me out of control. I'm a cold-blooded Russian," Kirilenko said. "It's very tough to get me hot. Anyway, I'm very happy we get nice performance tonight."
It was quite a contrast from his game Monday when he played only 10 minutes and had zeroes in the shooting categories because he got into early foul trouble in Los Angeles against the Clippers, and when he got back into the game, he quickly picked up more foul trouble.
"Those games happen. Sometimes you get in foul trouble early, and at the end of the game, it was 20 points, and coach kind of hold you (out). That's OK. I understand. That's no problem," he said, noting he was very well rested for Friday. "I haven't played in four or five days. Nine minutes for five days, so I'm doing pretty good," he said, smiling."I'm not looking for the points," he added. "I'm looking for the win, and we got a nice win."
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