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McLeod struggles down stretch

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Before last Saturday's game at Milwaukee, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan hinted he might use starting point guard Keith McLeod at a time he typically does not: chiefly, the end of a game still on the line.

"I've got to take a look at him in that situation, probably, as time goes on," the Jazz coach said, "if we're going to do a better job trying to finish."

True to his word, Sloan substituted McLeod for backup and ex-starter Carlos Arroyo for the final six minutes and eight seconds of an 89-86 loss to the Bucks — Utah's ninth straight loss.

McLeod had his moments in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer that put the Jazz up by one with 35.2 seconds to go.

But Utah failed to convert on 11 of its 14 final possessions after he re-entered, including three that ended with missed shots by a 5-for-13 McLeod. McLeod also allowed Bucks point Mike James to drive past him for Milwaukee's final go-ahead basket with 20.9 seconds remaining.

"We kind of self-destruct all the way around — not just him," Sloan said afterward.

"He had a couple possessions, probably, he'd like to have back. . . . (But) he's a young guy. He's never probably played in that position before, and I thought he was competing hard. That was the most-important thing."

McLeod aggravated a groin strain in the Jazz's last game against its opponent tonight, San Antonio, and missed Utah's next 13 games as a result.

Jazz All-Star forward Andrei Kirilenko partially tore a medial collateral knee ligament in that same Nov. 27 game against the Spurs. He has been out in the 21 games since, and may not return until later this week or sometime next week.

Center Jarron Collins (medial collateral knee sprain) remains on Utah's injured list with Kirilenko. Guard Raja Bell (knee strain) has missed four straight games and is questionable tonight.

HE SAID IT: Milwaukee's James, on his winning layup: "We wanted to go at Carlos Boozer (who was in foul trouble). We knew he didn't really want to foul. The play was designed for me to just run a high pick and roll. I just came off a screen and said to myself, 'I'm either going to go all the way to the basket or I'm going to get fouled.' "

SITTING: Former Jazz big man Tony Massenburg has been a Did Not Play-Coach's Decision in San Antonio's last two games, and 11 times total this season.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Jazz had nine steals in Saturday's first half alone and 10 total, nearly double their 5.8 average coming into the game . . . Utah hit all 17 of its free throws against the Bucks, including 4-of-4 from Boozer, McLeod and Mehmet Okur . . . Okur had a game-high 13 rebounds to go with his 10 points in Milwaukee, marking his eighth double-double of the season . . . Howard Eisley's 15 points Saturday were a season-high.

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com