Koufos scores career-high 18 in Utah win

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—Running out of forwards and centers, the Utah Jazz turned to rookie Kosta Koufos and seldom-used Kyrylo Fesenko.

Both came through with career high scoring nights and anchored a patchwork lineup as Utah beat the weary Dallas Mavericks 97-88 on Friday night.

Koufos scored 18 points and Fesenko added eight points as the short-handed Jazz pulled ahead early and never gave up the lead, ending Dallas’ three-game winning streak.

“It really seemed like they pulled together and tried to win the game right from the beginning of the ballgame,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “I was happy about that.”

With Utah missing its top three scorers and rebounders in Carlos Boozer (quad), Paul Millsap (knee) and Mehmet Okur (back), Koufos made his sixth career start and had his best game since leaving Ohio State after his freshman year.

“I’ve got great teammates that know how to distribute the ball,” Koufos said.

Koufos was 8-for-11 and also had eight rebounds and the Jazz outscored the Mavericks 52-34 in the paint and topped his previous career high of 12 points. Fesenko, a second-year player out of the Ukraine, had never scored more than six points in a game before going 4-for-5 and blocking three shots on Friday.

“Everybody who played minutes tonight contributed somehow,” said Deron Williams, who had 17 points and 13 assists.

Andrei Kirilenko made up for going 1-for-12 from the floor by pulling down 14 rebounds. Ronnie Brewer added 21 points and C.J. Miles added 14 points for Utah.

Dallas had played in Portland on Thursday night and didn’t arrive until early Friday in snowy Salt Lake City, which was blasted by an overnight winter storm.

The Mavericks looked weary from the start, then lost Dirk Nowitzki early in the fourth quarter when the former MVP was called for a flagrant foul under the basket.

“We struggled, but I’m not going to make excuses about the travel or anything like that,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “Everybody gets put in this position at some point and you’ve got to be able to come out and play.”

Reserve Jason Terry led Dallas with 26 points. Nowitzki had 17 points and eight rebounds before he was tossed for backhanding Matt Harpring with 9:48 left in the game after Fesenko scored on an offensive rebound.

Harpring and Nowitzki were tangled under the basket and as they were breaking apart, Nowitzki flailed his right arm and caught Harpring squarely on the mouth and was immediately ejected.

“It appeared to me to be accidental, but they said his fist was closed so it’s an automatic Flagrant-2,” Carlisle said.

Nowitzki argued the call and had a few words with Harpring before the two were separated, then went to the locker room after the officials watched a replay and the call stood.

That actually seemed to wake up the Mavericks, who had fallen behind 83-68 when Harpring made the free throw for the flagrant foul. The Mavericks rallied with a 12-2 run shortly after Nowitzki was tossed, getting within 85-80 when James Singleton made a layup midway through the fourth, but that was as close as the Jazz let it get.

Jason Kidd, who had nine assists for Dallas, said the Mavericks’ energy seemed to be somewhere between Portland and Utah.

“We came out flat and we ended flat,” Kidd said.

Williams drove for back-to-back layups, then fed Koufos just outside the lane and he banked it in while getting fouled to put Utah up 94-84.

“They have an opportunity to show what they can do, and they were terrific tonight,” Kirilenko said. “They grabbed rebounds and made shots. They were a huge part of our team tonight.”

Notes

Williams had five assists in the first quarter. … Dallas had won four of five entering the game. … The Mavericks’ bench outscored Utah’s 39-18.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Dallas
J. Terry Jason Terry
10-18,  26 Pts
1 Rebs, 3 Assists
 Utah
D. Williams Deron Williams
6-16,  17 Pts
3 Rebs, 13 Assists

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Rebounds
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Friday, Dec 26