Jazz stomp Lakers

By By Jason Peterson

By Jason Peterson

At the height of the Persian empire, its army overwhelmed opponents by sheer numbers. The elite Persian soldiers were known as Immortals because when one fell, another simply took his place.

On Friday night, the Utah Jazz (12-5) took a page from the history books and overwhelmed the Los Angeles Lakers, 120-96, before a sellout crowd of 19,911.

The Jazz battled Kobe Bryant and Co. without two of their own starters — Carlos Boozer (sprained ankle) and Mehmet Okur (back spasms).

While Paul Millsap and Jarron Collins started in place of the two All-Stars, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan drew from a number of resources to make up for the loss.

Jazz point guard Deron Williams, for one, responded by scoring a career-high 35 points.

“I knew I had to be aggressive,” Williams said. “We were out 26 points a game (from Boozer) and another, you know, 12 from Memo, so I had to assert myself early in the game.”

Williams jump-started the Jazz with 18 points in the first half en route to a 70-51 halftime lead. The third-year guard attacked the Laker defense relentlessly, crossing and slashing his way into the paint for easy layups.

Andrei Kirilenko also made up for Utah’s shortcomings by achieving the triple-double that had barely eluded him all season. The forward scored 20 points to go with 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

“Andrei was sensational,” Sloan said. “You can go down the line of guys who played well. It looked like we were playing basketball and having fun. Andrei was huge in all of that.”

Even Millsap chipped in to help with a Boozer-like 20 points and nine rebounds in 36 minutes of action.

Rookie center Kyrylo Fesenko proved a pleasant surprise as a last-minute call-up from the Utah Flash — the Jazz’s Developmental League affiliate. After playing with the Flash just 24 hours earlier, Fesenko looked at home in the Jazz offense, scoring six points and grabbing seven rebounds before an elbow from the Lakers’ Chris Mihm took him out with five stitches.

Ronnie Brewer had 14 points and six rebounds. Perhaps more importantly, he helped limit Bryant, who scored 28, from going off for twice that much.

“We played him a little bit tough,” Sloan said of Utah’s defense on Bryant. “We don’t go around saying we stopped Kobe Bryant — you don’t stop players like that. (The Lakers) played (Thursday night), and our guys were fresh.”

Bryant saw only two other teammates score in double figures. Jordan Farmar scored 21 and Ronny Turiaf added 12.

Derek Fisher returned to Salt Lake City for the first time since he asked to be released from his contract with the Jazz this summer. He scored just three points and added two assists. More notably, Fisher and the controversy surrounding his release from the Jazz elicited a chorus of boos each time he touched the ball.

The Jazz, having won nine of their last 12, look to keep the streak going against a struggling Miami Heat tonight at EnergySolutions Arena.

Miami is still gelling after trading key forward Antoine Walker to Minnesota for Ricky Davis. Dwyane Wade is also adjusting after returning in mid-November from shoulder surgery.

Boozer and Okur will be gametime decisions for the Jazz tonight, but Sloan can be comforted that if they can’t go, others will be ready to fill in.

“That happens a lot in this business — when guys can’t play, somebody else steps up,” Sloan said. “I’ve seen it a number of times.”

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Lennie Mahler

Andrei Kirilenko pulls in a rebound against the Lakers on Saturday. Kirilenko’s triple-double performance helped the Jazz to a 120-96 win.