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Utah lets 14-point lead slip, but gets another grip

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Matt Harpring single-handedly prevented the
Utah Jazz from folding on the road yet again.

Harpring tied a season-high with 28 points, finishing with eight
consecutive points late in the fourth quarter to lead Utah to a
98-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night.

New Orleans overcame a 14-point, second-half deficit to take an
85-84 lead before Harpring sparked a 10-0 Utah run that put the
Hornets back in a nine-point hole with just under 2 minutes left.

"It just felt different tonight. I felt that we were going to
win even when they came close," Harpring said.

Harping converted three-point plays on a driving left-handed
layup and a fast-break dunk during the crucial stretch. He also had
a left-handed layup to finish another aggressive drive in the lane.

New Orleans was without starting center Jamaal Magloire, as well
as reserve center Chris Anderson (sprained right ankle), who had
seven blocks in New Orleans' last game. Harpring took notice of the
Hornets' lack of size inside and challenged his defenders, Lee
Nailon and Bostjan Nachbar.

"I had a feeling I could take them down low," Harpring said.
"They don't have any really strong shot blockers ... so I could
just take it strong to the goal and either score or get fouled."

New Orleans lost its seventh consecutive home game, while Utah
snapped an eight-game road losing streak.

J.R. Smith scored 18 for New Orleans, many on difficult,
off-balance fades as he angled through the lane. Reserve David West
hit his first six shots, four of them in the fourth quarter, to
help the Hornets rally for their brief lead. He finished with 15
points, as did Nailon. P.J. Brown grabbed 13 rebounds.

"Some losses hurt more than others, like this one tonight,"
Brown said. "You're one up with four minutes to go in the game and
you're on your home floor -- you've got to win the game. You've got
to turn it up a notch. I've been there before, I've been in that
situation so many times. ... It's just frustrating and I wish I
could just give some of that experience (to the younger Hornets),
but I can't. It hurts. We all hurt."

Harpring and Nailon, who bickered on several occasions, both
were ejected with 3.4 seconds left, well after the game had been

"I can't really say what he was saying to me," Harpring said.
"When you've got someone just yapping away at you ... especially
when they're losing. When is he going to understand that? Look at
the scoreboard. We're winning the game. What (was he) yapping
about? ... And I said, 'Shut up!' And he didn't like that."

Mehmet Okur and Keith McLeod each scored 12 points for Utah,
while Kirk Snyder added 11.

Utah ran pick-and-rolls effectively through much of the first
three quarters and used the play to set up an easy layup for Gordan
Giricek and get Okur to the line for free throws, which helped Utah
build a 57-43 lead with 8:12 left in the third period.

New Orleans closed to 63-59 with a 12-3 run that opened with Dan
Dickau's 3-pointer, followed by Nailon's two jumpers and putback

McLeod helped Utah respond by hitting a jumper coming off a
screen and then picking off a bad pass and taking it all the way
for a dunk. Okur hit a jumper shortly after, giving the Jazz a
72-63 lead heading into the final quarter.

New Orleans opened the game quickly, leading 17-8 after Brown
followed his own miss with a tip-in. Utah came back with a 13-2 run
fueled by Snyder, who had a pair of driving layups, a put-back
after he missed a free throw and a 3-pointer. The run gave the Jazz
a 21-19 lead.

After New Orleans tied the game at 31 on Nachbar's three-point
play on the break, Utah closed the second quarter with a 16-8 run.
Harpring had six of those points, including a fast-break dunk and a
14-foot jumper, putting Utah ahead 47-39 at halftime.

Game notes
The game matched two of the worst teams in the Western
Conference at a time when both were missing key players. In
addition to Magloire and Andersen, New Orleans also was without
point guard Speedy Claxton (strained right groin). Brown, normally
a forward, started at center. The Jazz were without F Andrei
Kirilenko (broken left wrist) and Carlos Boozer (strained right
foot). ... Utah and New Orleans are 2-2 against each other. ...
Utah improved to 5-17 on the road against the Western Conference.


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