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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Utah's Mehmet Okur Rains Two Late Threes on Seattle, Including the Game Winner

Mehmet Okur's three pointer with 1.6 seconds left lifted the Utah Jazz to a 109-107 win over the Seattle Supersonics. Utah led for most of the second half but Ray Allen scored 20 points in the fourth quarter and Rashard Lewis' three pointer with 1:35 remaining put the Sonics up 103-102. That set the stage for an exciting finish. Matt Harpring sank two free throws to give Utah a 104-103 lead but Lewis immediately answered with two free throws. The teams traded missed shots before Carlos Boozer's putback made the score 106-105 Utah. After a timeout, Ray Allen drove left and converted a tough left handed layup over the outstretched arms of Andrei Kirilenko. Utah eschewed calling a timeout and Deron Williams pushed the ball upcourt, finding Okur on the wing. Okur drained a coldblooded three pointer. Allen missed a desperation three pointer at the buzzer.

Okur finished with 12 points and five rebounds. Utah's brightest star for most of the game was Carlos Boozer, who had 24 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and two blocked shots. Allen's 33 points were a game-high total but he shot only 8-19 from the field. Utah used various defenders on him--Derek Fisher, Dee Brown and Kirilenko--and was able to keep him quiet for most of the game until he exploded in the fourth quarter. Lewis had 27 points and eight rebounds. Utah's bench outscored Seattle's 33-13, with most of the damage being done by rookie Paul Millsap, a second round draft pick who had 16 points and a game-high 10 rebounds in only 20 minutes of action. He shot 7-8 from the field and made both of his free throws. Charles Barkley often screams "Gi-NO-bili!" and Tom Heinsohn used to declare, "I LOVE Walt-ah" (in reference to Walter McCarty), so I would like to combine those two phrases and say, "I LOVE Mill-Sap!" This guy simply inhales rebounds and he goes to the basket with authority. He is getting limited minutes now because Boozer is playing so well but he is a valuable energizing force coming off of the bench. Millsap is the only player to win three straight NCAA Division I rebounding titles, so his glasswork is no fluke. Utah outrebounded Seattle 40-31 and, not coincidentally, had nine more field goal attempts.

Utah and Orlando have been the two best teams in the NBA so far this season and they have at least one thing in common: each team's frontcourt rotation features a former Detroit Piston. Okur and Darko Milicic had small roles on the Pistons 2004 championship team but are significant contributors to the Jazz and Magic respectively. Okur averaged 18.0 ppg and 9.1 rpg last year and is averaging 15.1 ppg and 8.4 rpg this year. Milicic is averaging a more modest 8.1 ppg and 5.1 rpg but he ranks in the top ten in the league in blocked shots despite playing less than 22 mpg. Ben Wallace, the heart and soul of the Pistons for the past several years, is now the starting center in Chicago. The Bulls have gotten off to a much discussed slow start but will be a factor in the Eastern Conference when all is said and done. Detroit did not receive much in return for those three players, so it will be interesting to follow the progress of these four franchises.

posted by David Friedman @ 11:55 PM

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