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Kirilenko, Jazz back on track

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Boston Celtics center Kendrick Perkins, center, is double teamed by Utah Jazz forwards Paul Millsap, left, and Matt Harpring on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter.

Boston Celtics center Kendrick Perkins, center, is double teamed by Utah Jazz forwards Paul Millsap, left, and Matt Harpring on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter.

Charles Krupa, Associated Press

BOSTON — Though their 5-1 record may indicate otherwise, all is not rosy with the Jazz.

Coach Jerry Sloan made that much clear Friday night, after Utah protected its fourth-quarter advantage and held on to beat Boston 107-100 at sold-out TD Banknorth Garden.

But it's better, despite Sloan's grumblings to the contrary. Much better, thanks to Andrei Kirilenko and cast.

Because on this occasion — unlike Wednesday night, when the Jazz opened a three-game trip at New Jersey and stumbled for the first time this season — the tough showed up to get Utah through some rough-and-tumble times.

Point guard Deron Williams did the most damage, scoring a game-high 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field and delivering a career-high 14 assists. Williams knocked down one jumper after another, most because the switch-happy Celtics acted as if they had no clue how to guard the pick-and-roll.

Mehmet Okur had a hand in matters, too; quite a hot hand, actually, hitting 9-for-13, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range, to finish with 23 points. And Carlos Boozer got back on track, scoring 24 points and pulling down a game-high 14 rebounds to give him a double-double in every game this season except the Jersey debacle.

Perhaps more important than all that, though, it appears the Jazz may have Kirilenko back.

No, not the Russian scoring machine. He shot 4-of-8 but finished with only nine points.

Rather, it was the wide-grinning jack-of-all trades who reappeared Friday — much to the delight of teammates who might have been wondering where he's been.

Kirilenko poked his head out a few times in the first half, then made a full-fledged appearance after hitting a 3-pointer during a key third-quarter stretch, finally winding up with five blocks, four assists, a couple rebounds and one steal.

His trey came late in a 15-0 run that gave the Jazz some separation from a 56-56 tie, and followed a pair from behind the long-distance line by Okur. Kirilenko capped the run with a layup one possession later, then rested for a spell before recording two of his swats in the final quarter.

"Andrei hit a couple shots," forward Matt Harpring said, "and that gets him going."

"That's what happens when A.K. gets a couple shots to go down, or a big shot to go down — he gets a little bit of confidence, then starts to pick it up," Williams added. "We want him to be aggressive from the start. He's struggling a little bit with his shot, but A.K. doesn't have to score to have an impact on the game."

After pointing out Wednesday that it's tough to make an impact on offense when not touching the ball "for half-an-hour," Kirilenko seemed to remember Friday how he's made a time-respected mark in the NBA.

And he didn't seem to mind at all that he took only eight shots.

"I'm happy because we're winning. That's all (that) matters," said Kirilenko, an All-Star in 2004. "If it helps us, I'm ready to score less and let everybody else score. If we can keep playing like this — man, I'm telling you, I'm happy."

Sloan, however, was less than thrilled.

He lauded Williams and Okur but groused a bit about Kirilenko's play.

"He got hung up on a couple screens, and he seemed to lose a little bit of his enthusiasm," the Jazz coach said. "He's got to continue to fight through that, because certainly we need him on the floor."

Sloan also seemed flustered over how Utah, which went into the fourth quarter up by 12, allowed Boston back in the game.

The Celtics — playing with starting point guard Sebastian Telfair at a local hospital to be checked out for a brief first-quarter scare due to shortness of breath — got to within three points on five different occasions on the final five minutes and nine seconds.

After it happened the last time, on a Ryan Gomes layup with 1:19 left, the Jazz responded with a free throw from Okur, Kirilenko's block of a jumper by 30-point game-high scorer Paul Pierce and five more freebies in the final 28.6 seconds.

"About everything we did was broken," said Sloan, whose club finishes its trip tonight at Milwaukee.

"It looked like we were going to be able to control, but we kept getting even more scattered out and couldn't stay with what we were doing as well as I thought we should be able to.

"We couldn't find ourselves," he added. "We tried to play a zone, and we thought we were in a man-to-man. Man-to-man, we thought they were in a zone. Gee. I've never had ... that much confusion. But, fortunately, Deron (Williams) had a terrific game, and Memo (Okur) had a great game, too."

Not to mention a certain Russian who apparently is back in the fold.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com