<
>

Jazz beat Blazers, break out of three-game slump

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Andrei Kirilenko still feels slightly out
of synch.

Kirilenko missed seven games with a sprained right ankle, and
has since played off the bench for the Utah Jazz. In his third game
back, he had nine points and five rebounds as the Jazz defeated the
struggling Portland Trail Blazers 98-93 Sunday night.

"I'm having a tough time right now after missing three weeks.
Things are not going well for me," he said. "I still feel a
little bit out of rhythm, out of game rhythm, out of shot, but I'm
trying to get back."

While Kirilenko wasn't the top scorer, he was key to stopping a
Portland rally late in the second half.

The Blazers tied it at 85 on Sebastian Telfair's 3-pointer from
the corner with 4:17 left, but Kirilenko answered with his own 3,
then made a free-throw for a four-point play.

"It was such a great situation that I couldn't miss that
shot," he said. "When I shot it, it was a good arch. And after
the shot, Zach Randolph fouled me."

The Blazers, losers of four straight, trailed by as many as 14
points in the first half -- but they took over the lead for a time
in the second half.

Joel Przybilla's hard-fought jumper from under the basket tied
it at 62 before Randolph's layup and free throw gave the Blazers
the lead.

Portland held on to a narrow margin until Mehmet Okur made two
consecutive layups to put the Jazz back ahead 76-75. Mehmet
finished with 28 points and eight rebounds.

After Kirilenko's four points held off Portland, Matt Harpring's
falling-down 3-pointer made it 96-91 with 41 seconds to go and all
but sealed it.

Harpring had 20 points as the Jazz snapped a three-game losing
streak.

"We've had some tough breaks, things haven't always been
rosy," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "So it was good for the guys
to have some fun."

Portland got 19 points from both Ruben Patterson and Telfair.

Portland was without starting forward Darius Miles because of
cartilage damage in his right knee.

Miles, averaging 18.2 points and 5.6 rebounds a game, was placed
on the inactive list. Rookie Martell Webster started on his 19th
birthday in Miles' place.

Miles had an MRI on Sunday that indicated he may need surgery.
He was seeking a second opinion.

Coach Nate McMillan said Miles' absence would be difficult for
the Blazers to absorb.

"Basically, you're just rotating guys in. You're losing 18
points there," McMillan said. "When key guys go down, it puts a
lot of pressure on that team."

Patterson had not played since cursing at coach Nate McMillan
during a game against New York on Nov. 20. He had spent the last
seven games on the inactive list after complaining about his
minutes.

Patterson met with McMillan and team management earlier this
week, and later agreed to conditions for his return. McMillan
wouldn't elaborate, but did say the agreement with Patterson had to
do with "what is best for this team."

Patterson was met with a smattering of cheers when he came into
Sunday's game. One fan lofted a sign reading, "I love you Ruben."

"Everything's behind me. I'm just here to play," Patterson
said. "I'm going to keep my mouth shut."

Utah took a 34-20 lead on Harpring's 17-foot jumper in the first
half and went on to a 55-45 advantage at the half on 62.2 percent
(23-27) shooting. It was the most first-half points the Jazz scored
this season.

Game notes
Jazz rookie Robert Whaley didn't make the trip to Portland
because of a stomach virus. ... Trail Blazers center Theo Ratliff
missed his third game with a left foot injury. ... The Blazers have
lost eight of 10.