As the media gathered around him in the locker room following the Utah Jazz's 96-75 win over the Seattle SuperSonics on Saturday night, Andrei Kirilenko asked if he could sit down for his interviews.
"I'm so tired," said Kirilenko. "Too much games."
Yes, the Jazz have had a rough month with lots of games, mostly on the road. It won't get much easier, either, as they head out today for a four-game road trip to the East coast.
But at least they won't be heading back out on the road on a losing streak. Kirilenko scored 16 points with five blocked shots to help the Jazz put a halt to their six-game skid.
"It's definitely nice to have a win," said Kirilenko. "We had a tough stretch with very close schedule with too much games in a short period of time. Our energy is a little bit down. My energy is a little bit down."
Still, Kirilenko had enough energy to play strong defense against rookie phenom Kevin Durant, who finished with only six points. Durant, the college player of the year at Texas last season as a freshman, entered the game averaging a team-high 20.3 points. He was just 3-for-11 from the field on Saturday against the Jazz, however.
Durant "will be a great player," said A.K. "Right now it is a little bit hard for him. He came from university as a freshman and it is a little bit hard for him to compete (due to) the physicality of the NBA. But still, I can see he has potential to be great. All he needs is to become a little more physical."
While Kirilenko and the Jazz were tired after a tough stretch of games and playing a back-to-back set, so, too, were the Sonics. Utah coach Jerry Sloan liked the defense his team played on Durant, but he knows that the youngster wasn't at the top of his game.
"He's a young guy and he looked tired, in all fairness to him," Sloan said of Durant. "Andrei has played him pretty well (both tonight) and when we played him over there. But (Durant) is a wonderful young player. He's got a chance to be a great player. He's got a lot of tools. A lot of people would like to have his tools."
After a slow start again on Saturday, the Jazz had a big second quarter, getting steals and deflections, playing strong defense and outscoring the Sonics 30-13.
"I like that passion. I like that energy," said Kirilenko of the second-quarter rally. "That is how we are supposed to play."
With Jazz center Mehmet Okur injured the past three games, Kirilenko has picked up his offensive stats. He's scored 16 or more points in each of the past three games, six more than his season average.
Matt Harpring missed Saturday night's game due to gastric distress and will not travel with the team to Atlanta today as he will be given tests on Monday to diagnose his problem. That may mean even more playing time, and more exhaustion, for Kirilenko.
"We have four more tough games (on the road) coming," said Kirilenko. "We've lost Memo (Okur) and we lost Matt, but we need to pick it up and get our energy back."Winning a few games would certainly help.
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