Okur had 22 points and 17 rebounds to help Utah clinch its second straight Northwest Division and snap the Hornets’ 11-game home winning streak, 77-66 on Tuesday night.
“I feel really good right now,” said Okur, who’s led Utah in scoring in their last three victories during what is now a four-game winning streak. “I try to stay active on the boards, grab every rebound out there, start the game with a couple easy baskets, then I step back. I’ve really got my confidence.”
Deron Williams had 16 assists and outplayed Chris Paul as the Jazz took a 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter and cruised from there. Williams then smiled in the locker room when he was reminded that Carmelo Anthony had told him during the summer that Denver was going to win their division.
“Carmelo, I’m sorry buddy,” Williams said.
Even with the division crown, the Jazz still had only the fifth-best record in the Western Conference, half a game behind Houston, meaning the Jazz have not yet sealed up home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
No one in the Jazz locker room complained, however.
“That’s on us. If we keep playing the way we are, we could end up having the home court,” Williams said.
The Jazz have played extraordinary defense in their past two games, holding San Antonio to 64 points in a blowout victory on Friday.
“We’re trying to get sharpened up for the playoffs,” said Jazz forward Carlos Boozer, who had 10 points. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well tonight but we played good enough defense to win the game and for us that’s a bigger sign. … If we can play defense like this and like the way we played against San Antonio, we’re going to have some more wins.”
Paul had a rare off night, finishing with nine assists and only four points on 2-of-11 shooting.
“It was the first time in a long time that I can remember that we just couldn’t make shots on a consistent basis,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “I don’t remember us being that cold for an entire game. Again, you have to give (Utah) credit on defense, but we just couldn’t knock down the shots.”
Utah coach Jerry Sloan said he did not think Utah “did anything special” to slow Paul, other than quickly crowd the lane before Paul could try to penetrate.
“We had to have help trying to keep him from getting down the middle of the floor,” Sloan said. “You’re not going to stop the guy. He just didn’t have a particularly good game. But he’s a great player.”
Okur scored all but two of his points in the first three quarters on 9-of-20 shooting, with a pair of 3-pointers.
Paul missed his first seven shots and did not score until he hit a driving floater with 7:50 left in the third quarter. That started a 6-0 run that pulled the Hornets as close as 49-46.
Okur then hit a pair of free throws and later made a 3 during a 19-4 run to close the third quarter.
When Millsap muscled his way in for a tough putback as he was fouled early in the fourth, the Jazz led 70-50.
“It was one of those games that was more their style,” Hornets center Tyson Chandler said. “They are better at ugly games than we are. It’s the way they like to play—grind it out and slow it down. They beat us at their game tonight.”
New Orleans held a 35-34 lead in a seesaw first half after Jannero Pargo’s jumper midway through the second quarter. The Hornets failed to score for the rest of the period, however, missing their last 16 shots, and Utah took advantage with a 9-0 run.
Okur, who had 15 points in the first half, scored four during the run and capping it with a 19-foot jumper, giving Utah a 43-35 lead at halftime.
Utah has won three of four meetings with the Hornets, winning both at home and splitting in New Orleans. … Attendance was 17,265, the Hornets’ 11 sellout in 16 games and 12th of the season, tying the high for sellouts in a season since the team moved to New Orleans. They also had 12 in 2002-03, their first season in New Orleans. The Hornets have one home game left. … The Hornets’ previous season low in points was 71 in a loss at Utah. Utah’s previous season low was 89 points, which happened twice in losses to Portland.