Utah Jazz: Raja Bell dashes off to be with family after big game

Published: Sunday, March 6 2011 7:30 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Playing in overtime almost ruined Raja Bell's night.

Bell, who has struggled with his shooting for much of the season, hit two clutch jumpers in overtime to help the Jazz to a 109-102 win over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night. Bell finished with 16 points, his highest total since Feb. 7, which was the last time the Jazz played the Kings.

Afterward, Bell bolted out of the locker room, through the tunnel inside EnergySolutions Arena and to his car. He wasn't avoiding the media. He just had better things to do.

"His wife and kids had a flight and had to be at the airport," said Jazz forward C.J. Miles. "Best believe we asked why he was getting out of here so fast."

A second overtime would have been destructive to the travel plans of the Bell family. He made sure it didn't happen.

Bell's jumpers put the Jazz ahead 103-100, and then 105-100. He then stole a Kings pass, and started a possession that culminated with a dunk by Al Jefferson. That slam put Utah up 107-100 with 8.2 seconds left in the game.

"Great to see him hit some shots," said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. "He's taken some good shots, and they've rimmed out on him. But tonight they went in for him and it's great to see that big one at the end go in for him because he works really hard on his shot."

Bell was coming off of two single-digit scoring games at home during the week. He had two points against Boston on Monday and six against the Nuggets on Thursday. He's only shooting 42.9 percent this season, which has been a source of frustration for the veteran guard.

"A little bit (frustrated), but at the same time Raj is the type of guy where it's over the next day," Miles said. "He's in practice and you can't do anything about it."

Bell has just kept working to start hitting shots more consistently. All shooters go through slumps and ups-and-downs.

"I've been there — trust me," Miles said. "That's what happens with shooters sometimes. You go through it sometimes where some shots just won't go in, they'll rattle in-and-out, and you won't feel good for two days. It always evens back out though. It always does. You always seem to find it at the right time and make shots."

That's exactly what Bell did against the Kings. He made four of his last five shots and scored nine of his points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

"It was great," Miles said. "We know he can shoot the basketball. He got some good looks late in the game, he stepped up and shot them. He's a vet and did what he's supposed to do — make open shots and make the right plays and he did."

Bell's steal to ice the game was just icing on the cake. The Jazz know they can always rely on Bell's defense. When his shot consistently comes around, it'll make Utah a better team.

"He had that big steal at the end which closed the game off," Corbin said. "That locked it up for us. He's a good defensive player. He's always going to be in the right spot on defense. But to see his shots (falling) was more pleasing than anything."

e-mail: aaragon@desnews.com

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