Utah (34-17) looks to carry a six-game winning streak into the All-Star break when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers (30-21) on Wednesday night.
Utah has won five in a row and is 5-1 without Boozer, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder who injured his left knee Jan. 27 and isn’t expected to return for several weeks. Okur has led the Jazz in scoring in each game of the win streak, averaging 25.6 points on 50.6 percent shooting.
“I have confidence in my shots. So do my teammates and coach,” Okur said. “If they need me, I’ll be there for them.”
Okur’s recent production earned him his first All-Star selection Tuesday when he was chosen as an injury replacement—a role he’s familiar with since taking control for the Boozer-less Jazz.
“We know he can make shots. That’s why if we can, we try to get him the ball,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.
Okur had 19 points and six rebounds in Utah’s 102-76 win over Atlanta on Monday, and rookie reserve Paul Millsap added 13 points and nine boards in 17 minutes. Millsap is averaging 12.7 points and 9.6 rebounds in his last seven games.
“We need everybody out there,” Sloan said. “We can’t continue to survive with guys playing so-so and then having guys out of the lineup. We’re just not that good.”
The Jazz will be facing a Cleveland team that’s on a run of its own. After losing eight of 12 games, the Cavaliers have rebounded to win three straight.
The emergence of Sasha Pavlovic has been a major factor in the Cavs’ recent success after he was buried on the Cleveland bench for much of the season. In the last seven games, the fourth-year swingman is averaging 15.0 points on 50.0 percent shooting, with 2.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 25 minutes per contest.
“My confidence is getting higher and higher,” Pavlovic said. “I know I’m going to play, that keeps me more consistent. I have to play hard on defense and my offense will come.”
Pavlovic scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter of Cleveland’s 99-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. His team-high total helped the Cavs overcome the struggles of LeBron James, who went 5-for-16 from the floor. Cleveland is 14-3 when Pavlovic plays at least 20 minutes.
“I go against him every day in practice and he’s a very tough matchup for me,” James said. “I just always tell Sasha, ‘You’re going to be very good for us. We’re going to need you.’ And he has responded.”
Like Utah, however, Cleveland will be without a starting member of its frontcourt Wednesday. Center Zydrunas Ilgauskas did not travel with the team to Salt Lake City on Tuesday and may miss Cleveland’s final two games before the All-Star break because of personal matters.
The 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas is the only Cavs regular to start all 51 games this season. Anderson Varejao will make the start in his place.
The Jazz are 20-6 at home, and only Dallas, owner of the NBA’s best record, has fewer home losses. Cleveland, meanwhile, is 10-14 on the road and has lost four of its last six there.
The Cavs are 5-1 against the Jazz since drafting James in 2003. The Cleveland star scored 51 points to lead his team to a 108-90 win in the last meeting Jan. 21, 2006, and he has career averages of 30.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists against Utah.
The teams close out the season series in Cleveland on March 17.