In a big game, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin went with a small lineup and got huge results.
That’s about the size of it.
Al Jefferson scored 30 points and Devin Harris led a three-point-guard assault with a season-high 28 as Utah rallied for a 104-98 victory over Golden State on Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
The win pushed the Jazz forward in the crowded Western Conference playoff race, where three games separate fifth and 10th place.
For the first time in the lockout-shortened season, Corbin used Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley and/or Harris in the backcourt.
The experiment couldn’t have worked better.
• Harris scored eight straight points in the first 75 seconds of the fourth quarter, when Utah turned an 80-78 deficit into a six-point lead.
• Watson finished with one point, but he grabbed six rebounds. He also handed out three of his six assists in the fourth quarter.
• Tinsley scored seven points and was on the floor with Harris late in the first half, when Utah’s 15-6 run tied the game, 53-53.
Corbin decided to use two point guards in the same backcourt mostly to help the Jazz attack Golden State’s zone defense.
“We were spinning a little bit,” he explained, “so we went with a veteran group of guys because they know how to play against it.”
Tinsley, the No. 3 point guard who is out of the rotation when everybody is healthy, was “surprised” he played 15 minutes next to Harris or Watson.
“But in this league,” he said, “you can never be too surprised at what might happen and what might go on. ... It turned out to be a good situation.”
Watson agreed: “It worked really well. I think we’re all capable of being versatile on the court. None of us are the same. You can mix-and-match us at any time. That’s valuable at a time right now when guys are sick and hurt.”
Harris was injured Wednesday and missed a 107-105 loss to Phoenix. But he was unstoppable against Golden State, jump-starting the Jazz with a 12-point first quarter.
“We were a little banged up so we went a little smaller and I think it worked well,” Harris said. “We played a little last year with a small lineup, so we knew we could be effective.”
Harris finished 5-for-8 from the 3-point line, including three straight early in the fourth quarter.
“He did a great job,” Corbin said. “We went inside-out. Great patience on offense. We took the right shot against the zone and that’s how you break it — you make shots from perimeter. And he did a great job of it in that stretch.”
Harris opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers. He also converted a layup after a C.J. Miles steal to give Utah its biggest lead to that point, 86-80. Depending on what happens over the final 10 games of the regular season, it might become one of the Jazz’s most significant stretches of the season.
“We just wanted to come out, be aggressive, pick up the defense,” Harris said. “Obviously we got them out of the zone by making some outside shots and, once we did that, we pushed it inside and did what we do best.”
R Al Jefferson scores 30 points and the Jazz rally for a 104-98 win over Golden State.
• Devin Harris adds a season-high 28 points and goes 5-for-8 from the 3-point line.
• Harris scores eight straight points at the start of the fourth quarter to give Utah the lead.
Kurt Kragthorpe • With some degree of apparent reluctance, the Jazz settled for a victory Friday. > D5