Already off to a strong start this season, Utah’s Carlos Boozer is having a particularly strong week so far.
Boozer will try to build on an impressive three-game stretch when the Jazz host the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
Boozer is averaging 30.7 points in Utah’s three games this week, beginning with a season-best 36-point effort in Sunday’s 103-93 win in Detroit, and has shot 75 percent over that span. He scored 12 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter in Wednesday’s 106-95 win in Philadelphia despite tweaking his right ankle before halftime.
“I think he’s definitely an MVP candidate,” said teammate Deron Williams, who had 15 points and 15 assists against the 76ers. “A lot of games he has put us on his back. He does everything well, and he’s tough.”
Boozer leads the Northwest Division-leading Jazz (11-5) with a career-best 25.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, and has recorded a double-double in all but four of his 16 games. He managed only seven rebounds on his balky ankle Wednesday, but still managed to lead his team to the win.
“We’re executing our offense,” Boozer said. “Deron Williams is doing a great job of running the offense and getting us good shots on pick-and-rolls.”
Ronnie Brewer added 19 points for the Jazz, who wrapped up a 2-1 road trip. Utah is returning home, where it has won six straight after dropping its home opener 106-95 against Houston on Nov. 1.
The home game is one of just four in a 16-game stretch before Christmas.
“Were a very confident team,” Williams said. “When we execute, well get a lot of assists and convert easy baskets.”
Utah has lost its last three games against the Lakers (9-6), including a 119-109 defeat on Nov. 4 in the first meeting this season. Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles with 36 points in that game.
The Lakers are coming off Thursday’s 127-99 win over Denver. The victory came hours after coach Phil Jackson said he agreed to terms of a two-year contract extension believed to be worth about $24 million, putting him under contract through the 2009-10 season.
The Hall of Fame coach has won nine championships, including three with the Lakers, tying him for the most all-time with former Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach.
“I’ve had tremendous successes and ultimately some great highs in this game, but the ultimate thing is about this team coming back into prominence in this game,” Jackson said. “We want this team to get back that consistency of a team that wan win on a consistent basis.”
Bryant, who ranks second in the league with 27.6 points per game, had 24 on Thursday but didn’t play in the fourth quarter - even though the Lakers only had a six-point lead after three - because of the strong play of Los Angeles’ bench.
“The young fellas came in and took care of business,” said Bryant, who had scored 31 and 35 points in his previous two games. “We have young players who have a lot of heart and who care. And when you have that combination, you have a lot of potential.”
The Lakers have split six road games this season, and have lost five of their last seven games in Salt Lake City.