Jazz’s Millsap plays a bad tune for Kings
SALT LAKE CITY – After waiting 45 games for his first start of the season, Paul Millsap played as if he didn’t want it to be his last.
Millsap tied his career high with 32 points and added 14 rebounds and seven assists to lead the short-handed Utah Jazz over the Sacramento Kings 101-94 on Friday night.
Utah was without starters Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams, but still pulled off its fifth straight win for the Jazz’s longest winning streak of the season.
“It’s big for our whole team. It’s big for everybody who’s out there and who’s not out there,” said Millsap, who scored 22 in the second half. “It shows how deep our bench is and how deep our bench can go.”
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Millsap played 43 minutes while starting for Boozer, who missed his first game of the season with a strained right calf. Williams, selected a Western Conference All-Star on Thursday, was away attending a funeral.
Millsap seemed to fill in for both players against the Kings, controlling the paint, hitting outside jumpers and dishing off more assists than any other Utah player.
“That’s the crazy thing about this league. You want to play more but you can’t,” Millsap said. “You’ve just got to get in when you get the opportunity or the chance and try to make it worthwhile
Andrei Kirilenko added 18 points, seven rebounds and blocked five shots – including one with 25 seconds left to help seal it for Utah – and Sundiata Gaines added 12 points and five assists.
“A lot of people played pretty well tonight,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “Everyone was focused on getting us this win and wasn’t worried about their individual games.”
Kevin Martin led Sacramento with 33 points and Tyreke Evans had 25 points and six assists.
The Kings scored just 17 points in the third quarter and never could quite recover, although they did keep it close.
Sacramento has won only three road games, but one was here when the Kings embarrassed the Jazz in early November.
“When we broke down offensively and kind of came to a standstill, they just kept scoring and they got the lead and we were never able to fight back into the game,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said.
After falling behind 10-0 to start Friday, the Kings surged late in the first quarter and kept up with the Jazz most of the night by taking advantage of their foul shots while Utah struggled from the line. The Kings were 23 for 26 from the line while Utah made 27 of 40.
That was more than enough for Sacramento to stay in it, especially with the way Martin was shooting. Martin made 10 of 18 from the field, including four 3-pointers. But the Kings couldn’t slow Millsap, who had nine points and five rebounds in the fourth to help the Jazz hold off the Kings.
“I knew he was a great player, but he showed tonight he can be a starter anywhere,” Evans said. “He put on a great performance. He was the key to the win tonight.”
C.J. Miles also scored 12 for the Jazz, who moved within three games of Northwest Division leader Denver with their ninth win in 10 games.
Evans got the Kings within 62-61 on two foul shots with 3:08 left in the third quarter, then the Jazz closed the period on an 11-2 run for a 73-63 lead entering the fourth, but Sacramento continued to push.
Martin made a 3-pointer to get the Kings within 76-70, then Sean May hit from the top of the key as the Kings rallied with a 9-2 run to bet back in it.
The Jazz were able to slow down the surge despite nearly turning over the ball when Millsap stumbled in the lane, but guided the ball to Miles for a 3-pointer.
Millsap added a three-point play, drawing a foul on a 15-foot jumper, hit a 19-footer and a layup down the stretch before Kirilenko snuffed a shot by Evans the Kings’ hopes with one more block with only 25 seconds left.
Notes: The Kings just ended a seven-game losing streak with a win over the Warriors on Tuesday. … Sacramento was scoreless until Martin drew a foul while driving on Millsap and made both foul shots with 7:28 left in the first, but didn’t get a field goal until Evans drove for a layup 6:17 into the game. … Millsap also scored 32 in Dec. 2008 against Boston. … The Jazz honored longtime broadcaster Hot Rod Hundley with a halftime ceremony and named the press room at EnergySolutions Arena for him.
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