Jazz, without Okur and Kirilenko, sweep season series with C's

Jazz, without Okur and Kirilenko, sweep season series with C's

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By DOUG ALDEN AP Sports Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- With two starters out because of injuries and two others playing while they recover, the Utah Jazz are relying more on their less experienced players.

The young Jazz got a lesson Saturday night in how to build a big lead, blow it and then build it back up again in a 105-87 win over the struggling Boston Celtics.

"I think its very impressive with guys coming in off the bench and guys that are stepping in for injured players. They're really being effective," said 32-year-old Derek Fisher, Utah's oldest player. "They're not just taking space up out there. They're playing good basketball."

The Jazz let a 15-point lead slip to one in the third quarter, but never allowed the Celtics to catch all the way up before Utah pulled away again late in the game.

Fisher scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half and Deron Williams added 10 assists despite playing with a sore groin that kept him out of a game Tuesday. Carlos Boozer had 16 points and 10 rebounds in his second game back after missing eight with a hairline fracture in his leg.

The Jazz were also playing without starters Mehmet Okur (back) and Andrei Kirilenko (knee) and had to rely a little more than usual on their reserves, who outscored Boston's backups 50-21.

Gordan Giricek scored 16, Matt Harpring added 15 and Paul Millsap had 10 points and eight rebounds off the bench for Utah.

"Our bench has been huge for us, as they have all year long," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.

Paul Pierce had 19 points to lead the Celtics, who have lost 22 of 23. Delonte West added 16 points and Al Jefferson finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds for Boston.

"They picked up their defense. They pushed us and we didn't push back," Pierce said.

Kirilenko banged his knee the night before in a win at Denver and the Jazz sat him and Okur, who missed Friday's game with back spasms. The Celtics have the NBA's worst record and Utah wasn't about to risk either player with the playoff stretch ahead.

The Jazz already have a sizable lead over Denver in the Northwest Division and are getting their younger players more experience headed into the spring.

"It's just another good win for us," Fisher said. "It feels good to be playing the way we're playing right now."

The Jazz moved guard C.J. Miles to Kirilenko's position at forward and started Jarron Collins in place of Okur. It didn't throw off the offense a bit and Utah pulled ahead by 15 in the second quarter.

But Pierce led the Celtics on a comeback that turned a rout into an entertaining matchup for a while.

Pierce's 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to cut Utah's lead to 52-41, then he scored Boston's first six points of the third quarter to get the rally really going. Brian Scalabrine hit a 3-pointer and Jefferson put back an offensive rebound to get the Celtics within 56-52 with 8:42 left in the third quarter.

Scalabrine hit consecutive 3-pointers to get the Celtics within a point twice and West made a 19-footer that cut the margin to 63-62 midway through the third, but the Jazz were able to stop the rally right there with six quick points.

Gordan Giricek hit from outside, Miles added a layup then took a pass from Fisher for a flying dunk to put the Jazz up 69-62.

"We had guys diving for loose balls, scrapping ... that's gonna make us better in the long run," Boozer said.

After a jumper by Ryan Gomes, the Jazz went on a 7-0 run and led 77-64 after three. Williams started it with a runner in the lane, which counted after the officials decided it was a defensive foul, then made a steal and kept the ball from going out of bounds with a pass to Paul Millsap for a two-handed dunk.

The Celtics were never close again and both teams had emptied the bench by the end of the game.

"You could see it throughout the game. They basically got everything they wanted," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "They made everything difficult for us for the entire night."

Notes:@ Utah swept the season series for the first time since 1998. ... Jazz F Louis Amundson, who is on his second 10-day contract with the team, made his NBA debut late in the third quarter. ... Boston hit 10 of 14 shots to open the third quarter ... Utah went just 19-for-28 from the foul line. ... Leon Powe and Gerald Green scored 10 points apiece for Boston.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-02-24-07 2251MST

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