Throughout the first five games of the preseason, Marvin Williams was quietly impressive for the Jazz. He would lead the team in scoring, but be overshadowed by the young player who matched him. He would score in double figures four preseason games, but always secondary to a new trend or a different breakout player
All the while, questions about the Jazz’s new small forward lingered, the biggest of which being whether the longtime Atlanta Hawk could become a primary scoring option.
In the Jazz’s 99-91 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 18,741, Williams finally had a balanced, breakout performance.
He was efficient offensively, scoring 18 points, and a menace on defense, tallying four steals. He also grabbed eight rebounds.
“I’m still trying to learn,” Williams said. “I’m a new guy. I’ve only been here three, four weeks now. I’m still trying to learn my teammates, still trying to figure out what coach is expecting of me, so each day, man, I just try to learn as much as I can and just show it out there on the court.”
Williams made 3 of 4 shots from 3-point range, and was 6-of-9 overall. On a night when six Jazz players scored in double figures, including each of the starters, Williams demonstrated that, on a given night, he can be a primary scoring option.
“He makes shots, man,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “And when things are right, he can post guys up at different times. Like you saw tonight, we go from strong side to weak side, and he’s ready over there — willing and capable shooter.”
The Jazz faced the Clippers for the second time in four nights, following a 96-94 loss in Los Angeles at Staples Center on Wednesday.
Both games were defined by chippy play, which came to a head with three seconds remaining in Saturday’s game when backup Jazz power forward Darnell Jackson was ejected following a scuffle with Marqus Blakely.
But the scene was not enough to distract from the night’s overriding theme: By trading Devin Harris to Atlanta to acquire Williams, the Jazz found a veteran player capable of leading.
Al Jefferson, who played against Williams in high school all-star games, said the No. 2 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft has quickly adjusted to the Jazz’s motion offense.
“Marvin is a guy that I knew this was going to help his game once he understood the offense,” Jefferson said. “We still ain’t took advantage of him on the inside. I know that’s more to come.”
Against the Clippers on Saturday, the Jazz never trailed after tying the game at 21. Led by Williams, the Jazz’s starting five had its best overall performance of the preseason — and only started its first-choice lineup for the second time.
Gordon Hayward scored 13 points, Paul Millsap added 12, and Mo Williams and Jefferson each scored 10. Mo Williams also tallied eight assists.
The balance gives Jefferson hope that the Jazz will never lack for a player willing to take the lead offensively.
“Marvin killed tonight, the next night it will be Gordon, the next night it will be Paul, one night it will be me, one night it’s Mo. We just got that team that on a given night anybody can beat you.”
Storylines Jazz defeat Clippers
R Marvin Williams leads the Jazz with 18 points, eight rebounds and four steals.
• All five starters score in double figures for the Jazz, as does guard Alec Burks off the bench.
• The Jazz improve to 4-2 in the preseason with two games against Portland remaining.
• The Clippers’ Matt Barnes leads all players with 22 points.