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Thunder-Jazz Preview


Thunder-Jazz Preview
Starting a season 4-0 is nothing new for the Utah Jazz, as they've done so in three of the last five seasons. Extending that streak in 2008-09 would mean another milestone for longtime coach Jerry Sloan.

Sloan will try to become the first NBA coach to win 1,000 games with one team as Utah plays host to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

Now in his 21st season and the longest tenured coach in professional sports, Sloan reached the brink of that milestone on Wednesday with a 103-96 victory over Portland.

Sloan also won 94 games from 1979-82 while coaching Chicago, but downplayed the impending achievement.

"The NBA is for the players," said Sloan, who will try to lead Utah to its first 5-0 start since 2000. "I've been lucky to be a coach. (Reaching 1,000) is not something that I will do cartwheels over."

Utah's offense this season is not overly impressive at 97.8 points per game. Sloan's team, though, has relied heavily on defense, which ranks third in the league at 85.5 points per game and has allowed the Jazz to remain one of four unbeaten teams in the league with Atlanta, Detroit and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Trail Blazers almost broke up the Jazz's perfect start by drawing within a point with 47 seconds left, but Carlos Boozer scored four over the final 30 seconds to put the game away. He finished with 20 points and eight rebounds, and Mehmet Okur led Utah with 22 points and nine boards.

For the third straight year, Boozer is averaging a double-double per game with 20.8 points and 10.0 rebounds, but his field-goal percentage is at 62.7 percent through the first four games, an 8.5 percent jump over his career average.

Boozer has been especially effective against the former Seattle SuperSonics. He averaged 20.5 points and 11.1 rebounds in his career against Seattle, and Boozer helped the Jazz win four straight and six of their last eight over the SuperSonics with 22.8 points and 13.1 rebounds in those games.

Okur, who is second on the team with 15.0 points and 8.0 rebounds this season, totaled 44 points and 20 rebounds in the last two meetings with Seattle. But top reserve Andrei Kirilenko struggled in those contests, shooting 3-for-13 from the field and finishing with 15 points.

Oklahoma City (1-3) ranks last in the league with an average of 83.8 points. The Thunder also are tied with the Jazz for last in the NBA with eight 3-pointers made.

Oklahoma City scored a season-best 29 points in the first quarter on Wednesday against defending NBA champion Boston, but the Thunder got just 26 in the next two quarters in a 96-83 loss.

"We've just got to make sure that we play for 48 minutes and tonight we didn't do that," Oklahoma City forward Desmond Mason said.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 17 points and leads the team for the second straight year in scoring. The reigning Rookie of the Year averaged 17.0 points in four meetings with the Jazz in 2007-08.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 7, 2008

 

 
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