DALLAS — After his 22-point, 17-rebound performance in the Jazz's win Tuesday at New Orleans, teammates gushed over the play of late from starting center Mehmet Okur.

"He's been more aggressive," point guard Deron Williams said, adding, "We've been wanting more out of Memo all year. ... We're gonna have to have that to be successful in the playoffs."

On Wednesday, as the Northwest Division-champion Jazz prepared to face Dallas in the first of their final four remaining regular-season games, Williams revealed how and why he's been on Okur's case all season long.

"Once he gets that confidence, it's tough to stop him," he said. "I'm just happy he's shooting the ball. You know, I don't think I've ever told a person to shoot the ball like I've told Memo this year.

"He's a 6-(foot)-11 guy that can shoot 3s with the best of 'em," Williams added. "He spreads the floor out, he hits clutch shots. And he can put the ball on the floor and be effective when he does. It's tough to stop him."

Okur readily acknowledges that he's expanded his game in this season's second half, both crashing the boards and driving to the basket more and more.

"I try to stay active on the boards, grab every rebound out there," he said. "I start the game with a couple easy baskets, then I step back. I've really got my confidence."

NO HARD FEELINGS: Last time the Jazz and Mavericks played, in early March, starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko got knocked hard to the floor on a flagrant foul from Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki.

The play cost Kirilenko three games with a sprained hip, and cost Nowitzki a one-game NBA suspension.

Yet there are no hard feelings whatsoever.

"There's not gonna be any revenge or, like, rivalry," Kirilenko said.

"I don't feel like I'm supposed to play 'harder than usual,'" he added. "I will play as hard as possible, but not with intent to hurt or revenge back something."

Kirilenko suggested he adamantly believes no harm was intended.

"He was kind of out of balance; I was definitely out of balance at that point," he said. "It happens.

"It might look like horrible on the TV," Kirilenko added, "but I've known Dirk for probably like five, six years, and he's never been like 'dirty guy.'"

KNOCK ON WOOD: Williams and backup power forward Paul Millsap remain the only Jazz players with a chance to appear in all 82 games this season.

Millsap didn't miss any games as a rookie last season, either.

Williams played in 80-of-82 games during his first two NBA seasons, and very much wants to make all 82 this time.

"I definitely have pride in it," the Jazz point guard said after bending down to knock on the wooden floor of the Mavericks' practice court.

Williams said the closest he's come to not playing this season was in December, when he was slowed by a groin injury and a particularly painful in-grown toenail.

HE SAID IT: Hornets center Tyson Chandler, after losing Tuesday to the Jazz: "They are better at ugly games than we are. It's the way they like to play — grind it out, and slow it down."

PLAYOFF TICKETS: Jazz playoff tickets go on sale 11 a.m. Monday at the EnergySolutions Arena box office and at all Ticketmaster outlets, on-line at utahjazz.com and ticketmaster.com, or by calling (801) 325-7328.

MISC.: Shooting guard Ronnie Brewer, who returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing three games with a groin strain, practiced Wednesday and is expected to start again tonight. ... Jerry Sloan tonight will be going for victory No. 994 as the Jazz's head coach. ... Power forward Carlos Boozer has gone without a double-double in his last four games. He and Williams, who also didn't have a double-double against the Hornets, are now tied for fourth with San Antonio's Tim Duncan among NBA leaders in that stat category with 50. They trail Orlando's Dwight Howard (66), Minnesota's Al Jefferson (51) and Chris Paul of New Orleans (51).


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com