Utah Jazz: Kirilenko heating up
Veteran forward has complete game to help Jazz to OT win
The committee that concocted the ballot for the 2010 All-Star Game might make a slight alteration if it had a chance to put the 120-player list together again.
Whether or not he is playing like he deserves All-Star votes is debatable, of course. But Andrei Kirilenko now is looking like he at least belongs in the debate with others on the lengthy list.
The Jazz small forward has recently been looking like he might deserve consideration for the Sixth Man of the Year award as well.
Kirilenko extended his double-digit scoring streak Saturday night to 11, tying Carlos Boozer for team-high honors with 22 points in Utah's 100-97 overtime win over the Detroit Pistons at EnergySolutions Arena.
The backup also continued to give the Jazz a much-needed spark off the bench in his fifth game as a reserve. Kirilenko grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds to tally his first double-double of the year, and added two assists, one block and a steal as well.
"I thought Andrei had a great game off the bench," Jerry Sloan said.
The Jazz coach certainly wasn't the only one with that opinion. Boozer also lauded Kirilenko for his night.
Among the highlights of the well-rounded outing were two clutch free throws with 9.8 seconds remaining, a go-ahead friendly-bounce jumper midway through the overtime session, a massive follow dunk in the fourth quarter, and a 3-pointer late in regulation that gave Utah just enough points to play some extra ball.
"Andrei was unbelievable, unbelievable," Boozer said. "He came in, blocked shots ... had a double-double. He was everywhere out there. A.K., he gave us a huge lift off that bench."
Off the bench from the get-go, at least. Kirilenko started overtime and scored an important six points in the five-minute session.
The two biggest points were the free throws he coolly dropped in to give the Jazz a three-point lead with a hair under 10 seconds left in OT.
"I didn't think," he said about that key trip to the free-throw line. "You just go, go through (the motions), shoot, shoot, you out."
Kirilenko again thanked Jazz special assistant Jeff Hornacek for helping him fine-tune his shooting. He's been hitting his free throws in practice, too, which always helps to build confidence.
"Finally it pays off," Kirilenko said of his shooting sessions with the former Jazz sharpshooter. "I start making shots, especially in the crunch moments. I like it."
Again, he's not the only one with that opinion.
"You think about it in perspective," Boozer added, "he might've got us back in that game the way he was shooting that ball. He played great."
Something he's been doing a lot of lately.
Kirilenko has scored 20 or more in three of the Jazz's last seven games. Not by coincidence, Utah has won five of those contests.
The Jazz have also won four of five since he was put in the reserve role, switching spots with rookie Wesley Matthews.
It's a job Kirilenko, who'd be a longshot but still could be voted as an All-Star again by the coaches, is embracing.
"It's very important to bring some energy (off the bench)," he said. "Start running because people tired, people losing focus and those kind of moments you can really get some easy, easy layups.
"Find those position, steal the ball or get the extra rebounds. Those little things always pay off with the result of the game."
True whether you're in the popularity contest or not.
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