Rookie Wesley Matthews played a starting role for Utah on Wednesday night when the Jazz hosted the Toronto Raptors in EnergySolutions Arena.
But veteran Andrei Kirilenko was a finisher in the Jazz's 104-91 victory. Kirilenko played the entire fourth quarter as Utah pulled away.
Kirilenko, who started the first eight games of the season, is now back in the familiar role he played last year as the team's spark off the bench. He scored 20 points — three below his season high — with seven rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots in his reserve role.
Even still, Kirilenko was given just faint praise by the Jazz coach afterward. Jerry Sloan wants Kirilenko to play more fundamentally sound on the defensive end of the court and to quit taking so many chances.
"Andrei had some good moments," Sloan said. "But he's been here nine years. He shouldn't be making some of the mistakes he does on defense.
"To me that's really uncalled for because our philosophy is pretty simple. It's not like we're asking him to jump over the basket to play defense. (What we are asking) is to stay between your man and the basket. Sometimes he gets carried away and gets out of sync a little bit for a veteran player."
It's not like Kirilenko is incapable of playing good defensive. In fact, he's been an NBA all-defensive first or second team member three times during his career.
Kirilenko and the Jazz played strong defense in the fourth quarter after the Raptors had cut the gap to just four points late in the third. Toronto made just 5-of-21 shots (23.8 percent) in the fourth as the Jazz pulled away.
"At the end of the game we got more concentration defensively," said Kirilenko, who had both of his steals and a blocked shot in the fourth. "We got, like, three or four steals in a row and got ourselves going and got a 10- or 12-point lead."
Utah was able to hang on from there to improve to 5-6 on the season prior to tonight's game at San Antonio.
Kirilenko did not get his name introduced by the public address announcer before tip-off, and he wasn't on the floor when the game started for the third outing in a row.
But he's still getting starter-like playing time — so he says he's fine with that role. Kirilenko was on the court for 32 out of 48 minutes on Wednesday night — the third most on the Jazz behind only Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer.21 comments on this story
"I'm still playing 30 or 35 minutes a game," said Kirilenko. "I'm still involved offensively and defensively, so it doesn't really matter (coming off the bench)."
Kirilenko is also an asset to the team for his versatility and the ability to play numerous positions.
"Since the beginning of my career, I was playing like from one to five (positions)," said Kirilenko. "I don't really care; as long as it works, it works. It's the European style of basketball. Anybody can play any position."