Jazz will start Fesenko at center

Updated: April 19, 2010, 7:33 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Running out of big bodies, the Utah Jazz are going to start Kyrylo Fesenko at center in Game 2 of their playoff series against the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.

The second-year player out of Ukraine, who averaged 2.6 points and 1.8 rebounds this season, replaces center Mehmet Okur. Okur is out for the rest of the playoffs after tearing his left Achilles' tendon in the first half of Utah's loss in Game 1 on Saturday night.

Kyrylo Fesenko
Fesenko

Fesenko, who packs 300 pounds on his 7-foot-1 frame, got the call over center Kosta Koufos, who is still expected to get some playing time for the injury-riddled Jazz. Fesenko's primary defensive assignment will be guarding athletic Nuggets center Nene with Carlos Boozer focusing on Kenyon Martin.

Utah coach Jerry Sloan said he picked the bigger, stronger Fesenko over the 7-foot, 265-pound Koufos because "I just thought it would give us a little more size to try to keep them from getting inside as much."

Sloan stressed he's not expecting Fesenko to replicate Okur's 13.5-point scoring clip and 7.1 rebounding average.

"I'm not going to expect him to go out and get 20 rebounds. I think that's unfair. Or get 20 points," Sloan said. "Just come and play hard, try to understand what we're doing. Try not to make any mistakes."

Fesenko said his only concern was defending Nene.

"The biggest challenge is he is very quick on his spin moves, so that is going to be really tough for me to play defense against him. And I have some history against him, but I got fouled out in 10 minutes."

Fesenko promised physical play again: "Me and Kosta, we are subbing Memo, so we got 12 fouls for one position. Why not take them?" he said.

The Jazz also are without forward Andrei Kirilenko (calf), and Carmelo Anthony capitalized on his absence by scoring a career playoff-high 42 points in the opener.

The Jazz were intent on not letting Anthony get to the foul line in Game 1. Now, they realize they're going to have to get in his face more, although Sloan is leery of double-teaming him because Utah allowed 52 points in the paint in the opener.

"Are we going to go double-team him out there and give up even more in the paint?" Sloan said. "We've got to do a better job. If you foul him, you foul him. You can't let him play in a tuxedo all night. He showed what he can do in that."

Sloan said it's harder to guard Anthony without Matt Harpring, who now works on Jazz broadcasts.

"I'm hearing that he's sending a message to the guys saying the one way to get me is get in my head," Anthony said. "That's what he used to try to do. That was my younger days. I was 19 to 20. I'm older now. I'm done with that."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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