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Utah Jazz: Andrei Kirilenko finds his groove in win

Jazz forward hits key 3-pointers, scores 18 in victory over Clips

Published: Saturday, Sept. 5 2015 2:06 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — It perhaps isn't coincidence that when Andrei Kirilenko has scored in double digits this season, the Jazz are 3-1.

Or that when he doesn't, they're 0-2.

Saturday night was one when Utah's starting small forward hit his mark, scoring 18 in a 109-107 double-overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers at EnergySolutions Arena.

"It really helps the team," Kirilenko said, "to get those extra almost-20 points."

However they may come, which in Saturday's case was more so on the perimeter than inside.

"All of my shots have been midrange and 3s," he said. "You know, I'm not trying to be concentrated on those shots. But it just goes from what the game gives you. I've been open a couple times, just hit it. Been lucky."

Kirilenko's fortune was no better than in Saturday's second session of OT, when point guard Deron Williams hit him with a long baseball pass for what could been an easy bucket.

Instead, the forward from Russia was fouled hard by the Clippers' Rasual Butler.

Butler was tagged with a flagrant-1 penalty on the play, meaning Kirilenko was awarded two free throws and the Jazz retained possession afterward.

Kirilenko made both freebies to put Utah up 105-101 with one minute and 13 seconds to go, and — his story — he did so feeling practically no stress.

"I didn't have pressure," he said, "because we had a possession after that."

The Jazz made the most of it, as Paul Millsap tip-dunked a Williams miss to put Utah ahead 107-101.

Kirilenko understood the foul by Butler, even if it was deemed flagrant.

"I don't think Rasual tried to hurt," he said. "In those kinds of situations, you have to stop the fast break — because it's the last minute of the game, or the overtime. And he tried to stop it. It was a little bit flagrant."

But nothing to fret over, or hold against Butler.

"He's a great guy," he said. "He said sorry right after the moment. It happens. I understand that."

Kirilenko also hit a key 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, one that gave the Jazz — who had trailed by as many as 18 — an 80-77 lead.

He was pleased with the shot, but disappointed that Utah squandered a seven-point advantage in the final 1:04 of regulation.

"It was interesting," Kirilenko said. "We got a sloppy start in the first half ... then we kind of picked it up in the second half, started playing well better from defense to offense.

"Then we started being sloppy again, and it put us in overtime. In overtime, I'm kind of happy we stayed focused — especially defensively."

Because they were, the Jazz improved to 3-3 heading into a four-games-in-five-nights Eastern road trip that opens Tuesday night against LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

They'll go there as, in Kirilenko's estimation, a team still coming together.

"It's tough," he said after personally going 6-for-8 from the field — but also coming up with one rebound, one assist, one block and no steals. "We're still learning our game. But we're getting better and better.

"Let's say we have way more good moments than bad moments," added Kirilenko, a one-time All-Star and the Jazz's highest-paid player. "And I'm pretty happy with it. But not completely happy with our game."

Nor his, especially when it comes to consistency and intensity.

"I'm definitely," he said, "gonna try to be more aggressive."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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