The Jazz hope to keep building off Kirilenko’s energy, putting their longest winning streak in nearly three years on the line when they host the Memphis Grizzlies.
Kirilenko and Utah took advantage of a Los Angeles team missing the suspended Kobe Bryant on Tuesday, beating the Lakers 90-80 for their fifth straight win. The versatile forward finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, nine assists, seven blocks and six steals.
“I don’t know why it’s a big deal,” said Kirilenko, who missed Utah’s three losses prior to its winning streak due to back spasms. “I’m kind of all around and very high energy, so I’m not surprised. I’m like trying to do everything.”
After sitting out a seven-game stretch in November with a sprained right ankle, Kirilenko has shown the Jazz just how valuable he is. Utah is 14-8 when Kirilenko logs minutes, 12-4 when he starts. He is averaging 17.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his last five starts.
The Jazz, looking to go above .500 for the first time since they were 3-2 on Nov. 11, are riding their longest winning streak since a six-game run in March 2003 when Karl Malone and John Stockton were making their final push for the playoffs.
“People think it’s pretty easy, but it’s pretty difficult,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said about just getting back to .500. “A year ago, this team just kept going farther and farther down. They didn’t step up and try to make a change. We were 11-21, I think, a year ago and the next game didn’t matter probably.”
The Jazz are entering a stretch of four road games in six nights, including Saturday’s visit to Detroit, where they haven’t won since March 2002. The other stops on this trip include Philadelphia and Washington.
Even without starting point guard Damon Stoudamire or shooting guard Mike Miller, the Grizzlies jumped to an early lead Tuesday to defeat the Golden State Warriors 104-94 and win their fourth straight.
Stoudamire had season-ending knee surgery earlier that day, while Miller missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle. Miller is listed as probable for this matchup.
Eddie Jones scored 23 points and Pau Gasol added 21 to go with a career-high nine assists for Memphis, which has won seven of nine. Bobby Jackson had 19 points, two off his season high, in his new role as starting point guard.
“I haven’t started in a while,” said Jackson, who has been back for three games after missing eight with a hamstring injury. “But regardless of whether I’m starting or coming off the bench, I feel like I’m capable of running the team and being productive right now.”
The Grizzlies had won four straight over the Jazz before losing in Utah on Dec. 26.