During Wednesday night's game, a Utah Jazz fan held up a timely poster, informing everybody within eyesight at EnergySolutions Arena for whom he voted for president this week.

Obama? McCain? Nader?

Triple nope. His preferred Commander-in-Chief choice apparently was a write-in candidate who will need some Constitutional amending to pursue the position.

That'd be the pride of Yalova, Turkey: Mehmet Okur.

The Jazz's starting center and non-U.S. citizen might have received a few more ballots cast for him had the general election been held after Wednesday's game. Okur had the biggest game of the season to date in Utah's thrilling 103-96 win, scoring a game-high 22 points with nine rebounds.

Okur's outing helped him earn a postgame vote of confidence from his coach.

"I think he played much better both ways," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who picked up his 999th win with the Jazz. "He did a better job on the defensive end. I think that helped get him going; then he started making some shots and things kind of fell his way a few times."

Heck, Okur had such a big night the first 3-pointer of the year even fell his way. Though 0-for-5 from beyond the arc through the first three games, Okur said he wasn't overly concerned that he hadn't exactly been on the money — as some might say.

"I just don't want to give up," said Okur, who hit 9 of 14 shots overall but just 1 of 4 from 3-point range. "I just kept practicing every day and stayed hungry."

Okur, who's now averaging 15 points and eight rebounds and leads the team in minutes played, especially had the hot hand in the first half. He scored 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting, and helped Utah stay within striking distance of Portland, which led 52-45 at halftime.

Okur later contributed seven fourth-quarter points to help Utah rally from behind and seize momentum after trailing by as many as 11 points. In that stretch, Okur finally hit his first longball, putting the Jazz ahead 86-82 with 6:25 remaining in regulation.

"It was a nice game," Okur said, knowing that Portland won the season series 3-1 last year. "It was huge for us."

Okur believed that the Jazz's defense — they held Portland to 18 points in the decisive fourth quarter — was the key factor to Utah's fourth win in a row to open the season.

"I think we were active and we had a lot of deflections," he said. "And we were active on the glass and we really did a good job and help each other on defensive end."

Though complimentary overall of Okur's performance, Sloan still wants to see his 6-foot-11 starter become a bigger defensive presence in the paint.

"We're not a shot-blocking team," Sloan said. "He's got to continue to work on those things, and step up and put pressure on the other team, not just let them bring it to us and dunk the ball."

Okur only ended up with two assists, but one was memorable. Brevin Knight stole the ball and passed it to Okur, who showed off his trimmed-down size by dribbling the ball halfway down the court before tossing it back to a wide-open Kyle Korver for a 3-point shot.

At least one guy with a poster that read "McCain? Obama? We wrote-in Okur" couldn't have been prouder.


E-mail: jody@desnews.com