SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Mikki Moore found out Wednesday that he
will be eligible if Utah makes the playoffs, then celebrated by
getting the Jazz a little closer.
Moore scored all 15 of his points in the fourth quarter to lead
Utah past the New Orleans Hornets 89-76, taking a slight lead in
the fight for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"We have to put a string of games together. We can't wait until
the last two or three games and try to make a run. We have to push
it right now," said Moore, who didn't know about his playoff
eligibility until just before the game.
Moore, who has bounced around the league as a role player with
five different NBA teams, has been with the Jazz on and off since
the end of January and was not on the roster at the March 1
deadline. But because he was an unrestricted free agent when he
signed again March 4, the Jazz said Moore will be eligible should
Utah make the playoffs.
That's still a possibility.
The Jazz improved to 39-36 and moved percentage points ahead of
Portland (38-36), which won earlier Wednesday at Boston. Denver
(39-37), which was idle, is also competing for the No. 8 playoff
berth with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
"It's a great time to have something to play for," said Raja
Bell, who scored 10 for the Jazz. "Not only us, but the fans and
everybody is focused in on the race. It's a cool time to be in that
Gordan Giricek scored 19 points and Carlos Arroyo had 12 points
and five assists for Utah, which won for the fifth time in seven
The Hornets lost their fourth straight and have been without
leading scorer Baron Davis (ankle) for all four. With the loss, New
Orleans fell into a three-way tie with Miami and Milwaukee for the
No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference at 37-38.
It's the first time the Hornets have had a losing record since
moving to New Orleans from Charlotte before last season.
"It seems that when you're struggling, things don't always go
your way," coach Tim Floyd said. "You have to credit Utah's
defense. They're a gutty group, more so than anyone in this
Darrell Armstrong led the Hornets with 19 points off the bench.
Jamaal Magloire scored 12, Shammond Williams added 11 and P.J.
Brown finished with 10 points for New Orleans, which never
recovered after a dismal first quarter one night after losing at
the Lakers 107-88.
The Hornets never got closer than five after going just 5-for-21
in the first quarter and falling behind 20-11.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan was disappointed the Hornets were able to
make it as close as they did in the second half.
"I thought Mikki Moore came off the bench and did a nice job
for us and that was important. The rest were just kind of hanging
out," Sloan said.
Moore's previous high for points with the Jazz was the 11 he
scored on Saturday in a 85-83 win over Denver. He hadn't taken a
shot until the fourth quarter and finished 5-for-6 with six
Andrei Kirilenko had eight points, seven rebounds and three
blocks and Tom Gugliotta pulled down eight boards for the Jazz, who
never trailed after falling behind 5-2 in the first quarter.
Kirilenko scored on a layup with 5:50 left in the third quarter,
taking a pass from Gugliotta after a steal and breaking to the
basket, where he switched hands and put the ball off the glass
while getting fouled by Brown. He missed the free throw, but Utah
still led 53-39.
The Hornets chipped away and got to 61-56 after Steve Smith
opened the fourth quarter with a jumper and Magloire followed with
a dunk. But Moore, who signed as a free agent with the Jazz at the
end of January, scored six during an 8-2 Utah run, putting the Jazz
up 69-58 on a two-handed dunk off a pass from Lopez with about 8:30
After a basket by West to make it 69-60, Moore scored the next
six points and drew an offensive foul as the Jazz pulled away
75-60. Utah coasted the rest of the way.<
Notes:@ Utah had lost four straight to the Hornets. ... Giricek
scored 11 in the first quarter. ... The Hornets are 0-2 on a
five-game road trip. ... Wednesday was Utah's final game against an
Eastern Conference team. The Jazz went 17-13 against the East.