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Game-winner goes Jazz way

McLeod gives Utah chance; Okur converts

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Missing the basket but executing down the stretch the way the coach drew up the play.

It made a world of difference for the beleaguered Utah Jazz on Monday night in the Delta Center as The Downtrodden got a winning putback from Mehmet Okur with .3 seconds left to kill their nine-game losing streak, 97-96, and end an 18-game losing streak to the San Antonio Spurs.

"Coach (Jerry) Sloan talked to me and told me, 'If you can get on top of the basket, do it,' " said point guard Keith McLeod, who started the winning play in motion by driving off a Carlos Boozer screen and missing a layup that was snagged and put back by Okur.

The Jazz poured onto the court like they'd just won the NBA championship, certain that the basket would count while officials went through the mandatory video review process a few feet away.

"It was like slow motion," said McLeod. "After I missed the shot, I see (Okur) come out of nowhere and put it in."

Said Okur: "Especially after nine games loss streak, it was a huge game for us. It's what we needed."

Of the game-winning shot, he said, "I saw he missed the shot. I got the ball and put it in. I felt good."

Okur doesn't remember ever celebrating on the court like that in the NBA. He was on the NBA-champion Detroit team last year but didn't play much. This time, "I'm excited. I make the last shot.

"I had seven offensive rebounds," added Okur, "and so I am going for every ball. I just want to be there, try to create second shots for my teammates.

Okur totaled 23 points with 11 rebounds, and McLeod had a career-high 18 points after scoring 15 in the close loss Saturday at Milwaukee. The difference Monday, said McLeod, was "I guess the ball fell our way this time."

"It's a great win for us," said Okur. "We play as a team out there. Especially, we concentrate. On offense, we tried to help each other out, and I think we did pretty good."

Most of these players, at least the ones playing Monday — with not only Andrei Kirilenko, Jarron Collins, Raja Bell and, on this night, Matt Harpring on the bench with injuries — don't know much about the Jazz's woes against San Antonio that dated back to February 2000.

But Howard Eisley was on that old Jazz team, the last one to win, and he played an integral part in Monday's game as well, playing mostly at the off-guard position as the Jazz occasionally played three point guards and two centers at the same time. He doesn't remember celebrating like the Jazz did Monday in a long time.

"That's a great team. We need to celebrate a little bit," Eisley said. "We gave ourselves a chance to win at the end. That's all you can ask for.

"It's good to get a win. What we need to do is try to build from this and go forward. It's a great win, and we need to build on it and compete at this level or harder.

"We just wanted to win anything."

E-mail: lham@desnews.com