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SEATTLE - For a moment in the final minute of the Jazz's 112-93 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics on Wednesday night, Carlos Boozer's best chance at a triple-double - high school, AAU, college or the NBA - appeared to have escaped him.
Ronnie Price had taken the pass destined for Boozer's 10th assist of the game and looked inside to Andrei Kirilenko instead of taking a foul-line jumper. After Kirilenko was fouled, Boozer lined up for the subsequent free throws mouthing the words: "Nine dimes."
But the Jazz weren't about to finish a remarkable run into the All-Star break, winning 18 of 21 games to take over the Northwest Division lead, without a remarkable moment by the player who will represent them at Sunday's showcase in New Orleans.
After Seattle's Kevin Durant lost the ball at the other end, Boozer passed ahead to Price for a breakaway dunk with 35 seconds left. It left Boozer with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, the ninth player in Jazz history to record a triple-double.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was impressed by the way Boozer played with the All-Star Game waiting around the corner. "I thought he was really focused on trying to do the right thing all night long," Sloan said.
Boozer, meanwhile, was simply grateful Price let his pass bounce a couple of times before collecting it for the dunk. "I should have dribbled it one more time, but they gave [the assist] to me, so I'm happy about that," Boozer said.
Back in December, Boozer finished with 24 points, nine rebounds and a career-high eight assists in the Jazz's victory at Orlando and claimed it might be the closest he would ever get to a triple-double. As it turned out, he was wrong.
With the Sonics settling into a zone defense, Boozer had little trouble flashing open in the high post, drawing in the defense and finding his teammates. "The old adage, if there's two people on you, that means somebody's open," Boozer said.
He powered the Jazz as they closed the third quarter on a 10-3 run and took an 81-73 lead. Boozer fired one pass to Matt Harpring in which he was shouting "And-1!" before Harpring even caught the ball, let alone scored while being fouled.
"I knew it was going to be an 'And-1' because he's so physical," Boozer said. "Matty finished it great down in the low post and they were already hovering over him when he caught it. That was a big play for us."
The Jazz never trailed in what was their seventh wire-to-wire victory of the season. Boozer returned with 7:37 left needing three assists and a rebound for the triple-double. He found Harpring inside for a reverse layup for his eighth assist.
The ninth came after the Sonics had closed within 10, when Deron Williams hit a 20-footer off Boozer's inbounds pass. That left 3:53 for Boozer to find his 10th assist, and he wound up needing nearly every second.
Back in the locker room, Boozer collected his shoes and the game ball as keepsakes. The Jazz reached the All-Star break with a 34-19 record and 1 1/2 game division lead on Denver, an impressive feat for a team that was 16-16 on Dec. 29.
"We wanted this win to close out the great run we've had the last couple months," said Williams, who had 17 points and 10 assists. "Hopefully, we can keep the confidence that we have right now and keep playing the way we are after the break and into the playoffs."
The Jazz reversed course after a 5-11 December in which they endured a six-game losing streak. "The most important thing was they stayed together as a group of guys in that stretch," Sloan said, "and then they've gotten back to playing and winning some games."
Boozer, meanwhile, was looking forward to playing in the All-Star Game after having to sit out last year's with a fractured fibula head. "I don't care if I play two minutes or 30 minutes, I'm going to have a blast," Boozer said. "I'm going to savor every moment."