OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Deron Williams put Utah ahead then did his
best to keep a fellow rookie from handing the Jazz a critical
Williams hit two free throws with 18 seconds left and New
Orleans' Chris Paul missed two potential game-winners as the Jazz
pulled closer in the race for the final playoff spot in the West
with a 105-104 win Friday night.
"That keeps us alive. Otherwise, we're probably dead," Utah
coach Jerry Sloan said. "It's pretty simple. It's just like
anybody. We'd like to stay alive a little longer."
Andrei Kirilenko blocked a driving layup by Paul in the final
seconds, but Paul was able to get the rebound on the floor and call
timeout with 1.8 seconds to set up his final shot.
He then took an inbounds pass from Kirk Snyder and leaned into
Williams but his right handed attempt missed the rim. Kirilenko
grabbed the ball as stunned Hornets players looked for a foul call.
"I just tried to stay in front of him and not foul," said
Williams, who scored 17 points. "I just tried to put my hands up
and hopefully they didn't call a foul."
Paul thought he was fouled.
"I felt like it but it doesn't matter," said Paul, who at No.
4 was drafted one spot behind Williams last year. "They call it
how they see it and that's their job. Our job is to try to score
Utah moved within one game of eighth-place Sacramento for the
Western Conference's final playoff spot with three games left. New
Orleans is two games back of Utah and three behind Sacramento.
"We're still in it," Williams said. "We haven't been
eliminated yet. We've just got to keep fighting."
Kirilenko led Utah with 25 points, nine rebounds, seven blocks
and six assists. Carlos Boozer added 23 points and Mehmet Okur
scored 20 but saw his streak of four straight double-doubles end.
Utah's winning streak reached five, matching its longest of the
Kirilenko said he didn't know if that meant the Jazz were
playing their best basketball coming down the stretch.
"Sometimes we don't play good but win. I think that's the
point," Kirilenko said. "Right now, we need to win. It doesn't
matter how we play."
David West had 31 points -- the second-highest total of his
career -- and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead New Orleans, which wore
white jerseys with Oklahoma City on the front for their final
regular-season game here. They had been wearing jerseys with
Hornets on the front for all home games.
He hit two free throws with 2 seconds left to put New Orleans
into the lead, then put back Rasual Butler's missed 3-pointer on
the Hornets' next possession for a 100-97 edge before the Jazz
rushed back with six straight points.
Okur missed two 3-pointers for Utah, but the Jazz rebounded both
and Williams sank two free throws that ended up being the
The Jazz moved above .500 for the first time since Jan. 20, when
a loss to Denver dropped them to 20-20.
The only way the Hornets can make the playoffs is by winning
their final three games -- all on the road -- while the Kings and
Jazz lose their last three.
"Anything can happen," Paul said. "As long as we have a
chance, we're going to keep fighting and keep playing."
The Jazz trailed by as many as 15 in the second quarter but
rallied back to take their first lead since the opening minute when
Boozer drove for a layup that made it 89-88 with 7:41 to play.
Snyder drove for a two-handed dunk that provided the first of eight
lead changes down the stretch.
It was the first time the Jazz played a road game decided
by three points or less this season. ... New Orleans forward Aaron
Williams sat out after injuring his right knee Wednesday against
Seattle. ... The Hornets had their 18th sellout in 36 Oklahoma City
games, finishing with average attendance of 18,717. ... The Jazz
were outrebounded for the first time in 16 games, with the final