Boozer’s first career triple-double leads Jazz past Sonics 112-93
SEATTLE (AP)—There is a reason Carlos Boozer’s game is booming heading into his All-Star weekend: He’s just trying to keep up with the rest of the go-for-broke West.
Boozer, long considered a bullish inside force, had 22 points, 11 rebounds and a guardlike 10 assists for his first triple-double as the Utah Jazz soared into the All-Star break with a 112-93 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics on Wednesday night.
“We’ve turned it up,” Boozer said after the Northwest Division-leading Jazz won for the 12th time in 13 games. “The Jason Kidd trade (potentially) to Dallas, the Shaq trade to Phoenix, the Pau Gasol trade to the Lakers—the West is much improved.
“We have to keep up.”
Consider it done.
Utah, which also got 20 points from Mehmet Okur, was a middling 16-16 after it lost to Boston at home on Dec. 29. Then Kyle Korver, a sharpshooter, arrived in a trade with Philadelphia. He opened the floor, as defenses could no longer focus sorely on stopping Boozer in the lane. Point guard Deron Williams kept playing like the All-Star he isn’t but many around the league think he should be.
And Boozer, selected to his second All-Star game, has become a triple-threat from the high post against teams that choose to play zone defense against unselfish Utah—as Seattle did with disastrous results.
The Jazz are 18-3 since.
“The West is crazy right now. It’s so tough,” Williams said after he scored 17 points and equaled Boozer’s 10 assists.
Williams noted that the Jazz, at 34-19, are just two games from being out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Then again, Utah is also just three games behind New Orleans for the conference’s best record.
“We’ve got to keep playing well,” he said.
Rookie Kevin Durant scored 19 points and Earl Watson had seven points with a season-high 14 assists for the Sonics, who lost for the third time in seven games following a team-record 14-game losing streak. It was the 26th time in 51 games Durant, the No. 2 overall draft choice in June, led the Sonics in scoring.
“They just stepped it up to another level,” Durant said of the Jazz, almost with awe.
With a new coach, general manager, system and franchise player in Durant, the Sonics are 13-38 at the break. They were 20-32 at the 2007 All-Star break.
“It’s not always translating to wins, but we’re playing better,” Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo said.
Utah outscored Seattle 45-26 during the final 16:11 as the soft Sonics eventually wilted to the relentless pounding inside by the far superior Jazz.
Boozer got his final assist by feeding Ronnie Price with a long outlet pass for a breakaway layup in the final minute, the only drama in the final 16 minutes. Boozer will take 35 double-doubles plus the milestone triple-double in 53 games to the All-Star game in New Orleans this weekend.
After Utah took an early 10-point lead, Seattle had an 8-0 run and was within 49-47 by halftime. A dunk by rookie Jeff Green and a layup by Seattle’s Nick Collison tied it at 67 with 4:11 left in the third quarter.
Then came a classic Jazz ensemble.
Utah had the lead back up to 83-73 one possession into the final quarter after jumpers by reserves Matt Harpring and Price that ended the third period, and two free throws by Price that started the fourth. The lead grew to 91-75 after Okur’s jump shot with 8:48 left. Seattle never got within 10 after that.
Utah’s Ronnie Brewer started and scored 16 points in 25 minutes after missing two games with a severely bruised tailbone. He wore a heating pad across his lower back when he wasn’t in the game, but looked fine lunging for a steal and soaring for two dunks in the first half. In the second half, he continuously found open spaces under the basket while freely running the baseline against a Sonics defense that has been making opponents feel well all season.
Seattle was allowing 103.9 points per game entering Wednesday, fourth-worst in the league. The defense got so puzzling as Utah took a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter, the confused public-address announcer told the sparse crowd that looked less than the announced 10,618 to “Give it up for Sonics DEE-fense!”— after the Sonics bumbled their way to a shot-clock violation against Utah’s defenders.
Though still sore, Brewer said he’ll play in Friday’s rookie-sophomore game Friday that begins All-Star weekend in New Orleans. “It’s a big honor,” Brewer said of being selected after barely contributing as a rookie last season, when he averaged 4.6 points and 12.1 minutes per game. “It shows you are improving, going from not playing at all to a starter in the NBA with a team that’s playoff bound.” … Durant and Green, who scored eight points, were heading to New Orleans after the game as the Sonics’ first representatives in the rookie-sophomore game. Durant said he’ll leave All-Star weekend early Saturday so he can get to Austin, Texas, to watch his Longhorns, the team for whom he starred last season, play up the road at Baylor that night.