All-around effort • Minus D-Will, AK steps up offense and defense to spark team.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Andrei Kirilenko was the first player dressed after Utah's 108-100 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. A few more minutes and the media would've missed him.
The Timberwolves missed him a lot as he whizzed past them for layup after layup. His quickness and length led to five steals, 27 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
"I have kids to get home to," Kirilenko said. "If I were here a long time, it means I'm injured."
For long stretches, Kirilenko was the best player on the floor. With all due respect to Earl Watson's 13 assists, Paul Millsap's 30 points and Al Jefferson's 14 rebounds, it was Kirilenko with the best stat line. In 35 minutes, he made 10 of his 13 shots.
He drained his one three-point attempt and six of his eight foul shots.
Most impressive, he guarded everyone from Michael Beasley to Kevin Love, often having success in all of his defensive matchups.
"I thought Andrei had a terrific game defensively," Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan said. "He did a great job getting over screens and having to guard some bigger guys, then moving over to small players."
The key for Kirilenko was in his start. He came up with several lay-ups in transition during the first quarter. Once he got hot, it was tough to stop him.
He was opportunistic, scoring on several offensive rebounds.
He played multiple positions, and along with Millsap was a constant for a Jazz team playing without Deron Williams.
"It was our job to step up tonight and play well," Kirilenko said. "Deron means a lot to us, so when he's not playing, everyone has to play well. I wanted to be aggressive, and I wanted to help the team tonight."
He did that, especially in the final minute, coming up with a key steal when Minnesota needed a bucket. For longtime Jazz fans, Kirilenko put on a throwback performance. For Utah, it was a performance sorely needed in order to break a long losing streak.
AK's big moments
• Causes a game-changing turnover in the final minute.
• Scores 27 points, hands out seven assists and grabs six rebounds.