SALT LAKE CITY — Jazz center Al Jefferson said there is a tangible difference between Andrei Kirilenko and AK47 after Utah's 112-107 overtime victory over Philadelphia on Monday night.
All that was missing in overtime was the Mohawk.
Kirilenko got Utah's offense going with a 3-pointer to open the overtime period. He later followed a Jefferson miss with a dunk, and then iced the victory with two free throws with 18.5 seconds left in the game.
Kirilenko finished with 16 points.
"When AK47 is out there playing, it's hard for us to lose," Jefferson said. "AK47 is better than Andrei Kirilenko. AK47 is the All-Star we all know and love. Tonight he was AK47."
Kirilenko was actually Kirilenko, at least scoring-wise, for the first three quarters. He missed six of his first seven shots, and only had one rebound in the first three periods.
But down the stretch, he made the figurative transformation to AK47, and turned back the clock to when he was a 5X5 machine. The Jazz are a better team when he's AK47.
Kirilenko began to find his shooting touch when he made a 3-pointer to put the Jazz up 94-87 with four minutes left in regulation. He didn't take any more shots in the fourth quarter, but had a huge rebound off a missed free throw by Philadelphia guard Jodie Meeks. The miss kept the 76ers only up 103-101 with 11.5 seconds left.
After a timeout, Kirilenko then assisted to C.J. Miles, who made a strong drive to the basket and scored a layup to send the game into overtime.
"It was just tremendous to see him with his effort," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said of Kirilenko. "When he's as active as he was tonight, we're a pretty good ballclub."
Kirilenko's defense was just as important as his offense in overtime. He held Andre Iguodala scoreless in the extra period. That lockdown came after Iguodala scored 14 points and shot 5-for-7 in the fourth quarter.9 comments on this story
"Andrei — he's a player man," said Jazz guard Raja Bell. "You play the game, you might struggle for a while, and then you find a way to make an impact on it. It's not surprising."
The Jazz weren't surprised to see Kirilenko, who had a large scratch on his cheek late in the game and left EnergySolutions Arena without speaking to the media, play such an important role in overtime against the 76ers. They would, however, like to see him do it more often.
"I played with him before, so I know the impact he can have on a game," said Bell. "He doesn't always have to score to impact it. I thought he did a good job of that tonight. He hit big shots, obviously, but even when he wasn't doing that he was helping out in other ways, which was important."