Utah Jazz: Okur proving to be L.A.'s Achilles' heel

Published: Thursday, Oct. 8 2015 7:37 p.m. MDT

Jazz center Mehmet Okur played a big role in Utah's fight to even up the NBA conference semifinal series with the Lakers at 2-2. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Jazz center Mehmet Okur played a big role in Utah's fight to even up the NBA conference semifinal series with the Lakers at 2-2. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)
Mehmet Okur has been bothered somewhat lately in the Utah Jazz's playoff run by his Achilles tendon.
Just so happens, containing Okur has been somewhat of an Achilles' heel for the Los Angeles Lakers' defense at times during this Western Conference semifinal series, too.
That was an especially sore subject for the Lakers in overtime Sunday, when Okur hit back-to-back long jumpers to give the Jazz the lead for good in their 123-115 victory.
Though he got off to a slow start, scoring only three points in the first half, Okur made five of his final eight shots in another effective outing. The 6-11 center finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and five assists despite playing with a tender left foot. Okur's timely offensive rebound led to Andrei Kirilenko's three-point play that put Utah up by five with 35.5 seconds left in OT.
Okur was able to contribute to the win, but he said the pain affected his game. At one point Sunday, Okur had to leave the arena for a few minutes to re-tape his "sore" Achilles tendon to help him play with the injury.
"At moments I couldn't jump, couldn't run," he said. "It's kind of bothering me now."
Okur isn't sure when he hurt his Achilles, though it flared up again in the Houston series. Still, he has managed to rack up seven double-doubles in the Jazz's 10 playoff games by using his long range and his new-and-improved inside game. Matched against the Lakers' quick and long duo of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, Okur is averaging 19.3 points — second behind Deron Williams — and 10.5 rebounds in the conference semis. His production against L.A. is way up (almost five points and three rebounds) from his regular-season averages of 14.5 points and 7.7 rebounds.
"He did hit two really, really big shots for us in overtime, but Memo's been doing that his whole career in Utah," said Jazz forward Carlos Boozer. "That's why we call him 'Money Man."'
In that regard, Okur has been shortchanging himself at times lately.
Okur's injury isn't the only problem he's having with his foot. Boozer and Williams laughed Monday about how Okur's toes touch the 3-point line sometimes, turning potential threes into really, really long twos. That happened multiple times Sunday.
"He wears size 16 shoes. Sometimes the line's in the way," Boozer joked. "Look, if Memo hits a deep two or a three, either way, he hits the shot and we get a little bit more of a cushion. So to me, as long as the ball goes in, I don't care where he shoots it from."
"Yeah, it used to be Gira," Williams said, referring to ex-Jazz guard Gordan Giricek, who apparently also had a knack for stepping and shooting on the line. "Now I guess since his buddy left, it's him now."
Okur was kicking himself when he realized he hadn't backed up quite far enough and shot 23 1/2-foot jumpers instead of 23 3/4-foot treys.
"I was mad at myself. I should have stepped back a little bit more," he said. "But it's all good. We won the game."
Okur said he will spend time with trainers trying to recuperate between now and Wednesday night's 8:30 Game 5 tipoff at the Staples Center.
"I'm glad we have a couple days off. I'm going to rest," Okur said. "I'm going to get treatment and try to get better and go from there."
Boozer wasn't surprised at all that Okur bounced back to contribute so much in overtime after getting slapped with a technical foul with about three minutes to go in regulation. Okur got the "T" because he threw his fist in the air after being called for a foul against Derek Fisher.
"Memo, he's a professional," Boozer said. "It's not high school. ... He's going to keep playing."
Okur claimed responsibility for the technical, which turned into a four-point play as Fisher hit the free throw and a 3-pointer to cut Utah's lead to 102-98 as the Lakers pushed the game to overtime.
"I shouldn't have done it, especially in the playoff. I just kind of overreacted a little bit," he said. "I told (the referee) it was my fault. I didn't mean to do something crazy."

Memo to the Lakers

Okur vs. Lakers (playoffs)
Games: 4
Points: 19.3 ppg
Rebounds: 10.5 rpg
Minutes: 39.5
FG: 47.5 percent

Okur vs. NBA (2007-08)
Games: 72
Points: 14.5 ppg
Rebounds: 7.7 rpg
Minutes: 33.2
FG: 44.5 percent

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