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Inspired Utah pummels Blazers

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz tied a season high for points, shot 58.4 percent from the field and picked up their 50th win of the season.

But it was too late.

Utah's 130-93 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night came shortly after Houston already clinched home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs against the Jazz. But it was a much-improved performance from Saturday, when the Jazz lost at home to Phoenix 126-98 and got a postgame rant from team owner Larry Miller.

"We deserved it (the criticism)," said Utah coach Jerry Sloan. "If you can't take criticism, if that's not going to pick you up, make you play a little harder — well then, I feel sorry for you."

Houston clinched home-court advantage by beating Phoenix earlier Monday. The Jazz and Rockets close the regular season Wednesday night in Utah in a game that could have had a lot more riding on it.

The way the end of the season has gone, the Jazz will take any win they can get.

Utah, which had lost six of seven, took control of the game by outscoring the Blazers 37-22 in the second quarter. Carlos Boozer scored six points during a 12-2 run that put Utah ahead 60-41 with 2:48 remaining in the second quarter.

Boozer led the Jazz with 26 points on 86 percent shooting from the field. He also had 10 rebounds.

"We had a great game," Boozer said. "Guys played (defense) from point guard all the way down to the center. We probably had more fast-break points tonight than we've had in about a month or two."

Utah's strong effort was no surprise to Portland coach Nate McMillan.

"We knew that tonight would be a tough game, and that the Jazz are trying to get themselves in a playoff rhythm, and that they would come out aggressive," McMillan said. "That team is more physical and we were never in control of this game."

Utah was also bolstered by the returns of Andrei Kirilenko and Gordan Giricek. Kirilenko had missed five games with a broken bone in his left thumb and finished with five blocks, four assists and four rebounds.

Giricek scored 21 points after missing the last three games with a sore right side and was one of seven Utah players to score in double figures.

"It was nice to have those guys out there playing," Sloan said. "It gives us a lot that we miss, another passer on the floor, a guy who can shoot out on the floor."

Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan calls for a time out against the Utah Jazz during the second quarter of the NBA basketball game Monday, April 16, 2007, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac) - AP