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Jazz beat Spurs to end 9-game losing streak

Utah wins 97-96 to claim first victory over San Antonio in nearly five years

Posted: Tuesday, January 11, 2005

SALT LAKE CITY - When Mehmet Okur's putback rolled in at the buzzer, the Utah Jazz celebrated as if they had just won a playoff series.

Utah's 97-96 win over San Antonio on Monday night was only a regular-season game. But it felt like much more to the Jazz, who had lost nine in a row and hadn't beaten the Spurs in nearly five years.

"Tonight they deserve a reward because they stayed with it for the full 48 minutes," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.

Utah hadn't won a game since beating Philadelphia 103-101 on Dec. 20. The nine-game losing streak was the team's longest since 1983 and ended against the Spurs, of all teams. The Jazz had lost 18 straight to San Antonio, dating back to a win in Utah on Feb. 6, 2000.

Okur finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds and battled San Antonio's Tim Duncan much of the night. Duncan finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds, but Okur got free at the end and hit the shot of the night.

Okur pulled down the ball after Keith McLeod missed a layup and banked it in as time expired and the home fans roared.

"I was just trying to get to the basket," said McLeod, who scored a career-high 18 points. "After I missed the shot, I'm still looking and I see Memo come out of nowhere and put it back in."

The shot was reviewed and upheld as streamers fell from the rafters and the Jazz players and fans celebrated the end of both losing streaks.

"I made the last shot and we had a nine-game losing streak. It was huge for us," Okur said.

Carlos Boozer and Gordan Giricek each scored 13 points for the Jazz, who finally played a complete game after leading early and fading at the end during much of the losing streak.

Boozer, a 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate who is Utah's leading scorer and rebounder this season, was saddled by early foul trouble and only played nine minutes in the first half and 24 minutes total. Boozer also had four rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots to go with his 13 points.

Utah, which has been on a 4-16 skid since losing forward Andrei Kirilenko to a knee injury, was missing starting forward Matt Harpring and guard Raja Bell to inflamed right knees Monday. Neither player dressed for the game.

San Antonio never led by more than three and couldn't hang on to several one-point leads down the stretch.

Manu Ginobili scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth for San Antonio and Tony Parker had 20 points and five assists.

San Antonio hurt itself from the free throw line, going just 24-for-33 and left room for Utah to rally.

"I thought they played well the entire game," Duncan said. "We fought back into it, gave ourselves and opportunity but they never let up."

Okur slammed down a miss by Boozer to put Utah up 95-94, but the lead went right back to San Antonio when Duncan put back an offensive rebound to make it 96-95.

Okur then missed badly on a 3-point attempt with about 30 seconds left but he atoned at the other end with a defensive rebound off a miss by Ginobili, who drove through the lane and appeared to be fouled hard but there was no call.

The Jazz called timeout with 7.4 seconds left for the last-second attempt. McLeod drove for a layup attempt that bounced off the rim, but there was enough time for Okur to grab the rebound and get off the winning shot.

Although the game was not a sellout, the 18,325 fans roared as the Jazz mobbed Okur in celebration.

"I'm happy for them, in a strange sort of way," said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, who waved and nodded to Sloan as he left the court.



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