DENVER (AP) — The Utah Jazz are down one game and two players since the regular season ended.
An MRI exam Sunday on center Mehmet Okur's left leg confirmed fears of a torn Achilles' tendon, eliminating him from the remainder of the NBA playoffs and, in all likelihood, the world championships in his native Turkey this summer.
"It's horrible, man. We feel bad for Memo," Jazz forward Carlos Boozer said.
Okur flew back to Salt Lake City to mull his surgery options, leaving his dispirited teammates behind in Denver to figure out how to stop the Nuggets without him and forward Andrei Kirilenko, who aggravated a strained calf in practice on Thursday.
"It's a sad injury, bad injury, I wish him the best," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said as he sat dejectedly on near practice court at the Pepsi Center. "Memo's a big part of our team. He stretches the defense. He's a guy you really can't replace just because his inside-outside game is really unmatched."
Okur had been bothered by Achilles' tendinitis in his left leg since April 7 and missed a game but he fought through it and received a painkilling shot before Game 1.
Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said he didn't believe that injection had anything to do with Okur tearing the tendon.
"We would never have put a player in a compromising position if there was any indication that the shot would have masked anything or done anything like that," O'Connor said. "We would have never done that. We'd never put a game ahead of a player's health. ... That's not in our DNA."
O'Connor said Okur's injection "was certainly his call."
"Is it related? I'm sure in same way, shape or form, everyone's going to put it on the fact that it is, but (team doctors) didn't feel there was any additional risk in doing that," O'Connor said.
Okur flew back to Salt Lake City without addressing reporters or his teammates.
Okur was injured when his right leg slipped as he was driving to the basket Saturday night, shifting all his weight to his left leg, which twisted awkwardly as he fell to the floor — what O'Connor called "a perfect storm."
Following surgery, Okur will need three months before he can begin rehab, which can take several more months, likely preventing him from playing in the world basketball championships Aug. 28-Sept. 12.
O'Connor said the Jazz have made some recommendations but it will be up to Okur to pick his surgeon.
Okur's absence saps the Jazz of another playmaker who spreads the court.
"He's definitely a threat out in the perimeter," Nuggets acting coach Adrian Dantley said. "With him not playing, it helps our schemes a little bit defensively. He's a very important part of their team, an important part of their offense."
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was his usually stoic self when discussing Okur's season-ending injury.
"That's just part of basketball. Not anything you can do about it. We still have to play. We just wish him the best trying to recover," he said.
As for the Jazz, "we are who we are. We're not going to be able to do too much, other than play some of the younger guys that maybe haven't had a chance to play," Sloan said.
That includes Kosta Koufos and Kyrylo Fesenko. Sloan said he would likely keep Paul Millsap coming off the bench.
"Listen, this is probably going to sound bad, but I'm not worried about who's not playing," Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin said. "I feel sorry for him. I don't want to see nobody go down due to injury. But you've got to worry about the guys on the court. He's a huge part of their team but I'm pretty sure they'll come up with something. They're going to miss him, but they'll game-plan around it."
Boozer, Utah's top scorer and rebounded, is playing through a rib injury and C.J. Miles missed a quarter in Game 1 after sprinting into Chauncey Billups and crashing to the floor while trying to chase down a long pass that Carmelo Anthony had flung toward midcourt.
The Nuggets were pleased with what they got out of Martin, who pulled down 12 boards in 35 minutes, the most he's played since returning last week from an 18-game absence with a balky knee.
"I feel good, better than I expected," Martin said after watching film Sunday.
"Hey, I'm going to go until I can't go, until my body tells me to go sit down somewhere," Martin said.