The Jazz are in desperate need of a point guard, but their options are limited. With a full roster of 15 players, they can’t easily add a temporary replacement while Mo Williams and Earl Watson recover from their injuries.
Which is to say Alec Burks suddenly may be the Jazz’s most important player.
The second-year combo guard has been forced into an enhanced role in the last month, and with Watson’s exit due to bone bruising and a stress fracture in his right leg essentially becomes the Jazz’s backup point guard.
“Lately we’ve been trying to play him at the one,” starter Jamaal Tinsley said, “and getting him adjusted and adapted to it, just in case something like that happens.”
The Jazz are 26-22, but play their next three games at home, starting Monday against Sacramento.
While Burks’ offensive game has lagged — he shoots just 35 percent from the field and 25 percent on 3-pointers — coach Tyrone Corbin has put him in more situations to run the team. At one point in Saturday’s 104-99 loss in Portland, Burks played point with forward DeMarre Carroll playing in the backcourt and a big frontcourt of Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and Paul Millsap.
The lineup, used at the start of the fourth quarter, recorded a 10-3 run against the Blazers to tie the game a 79-79.
“We’ve done stuff like that in practice before,” Corbin said, “but in the game we haven’t, without a ball handler. Alec was really the only one in there.”
Burks will likely continue to see bigger minutes. Watson and shooting guard Gordon Hayward are both listed as doubtful for against the Kings. Burks will likely continue to see bigger minutes.
When the Jazz acquired Marvin Williams in the summer, they thought they were getting a player who would create mismatches, consistently hit 3-pointers and get to the rim. However, Williams has struggled offensively, averaging just 8.6 points per game.
It is his lowest offensive output since his rookie season in Atlanta, when he averaged 8.5 points per game.
However, Saturday brought a flash of the player the Jazz hoped Williams would be. He scored 11 points in the first half, and finished with 15.
“Marv played well tonight,” Jazz center Al Jefferson said. “He knocked down open shots, attacked the rim. You’ve got keep him with the ball, going like that. We needed a big lift, and he gave us that tonight.”
Williams isn’t the only small forward seeing an uptick in his offensive game. Carroll has been on a torrid shooting streak, making 19 of his list 27 shots in six games since a 0-for-4 performance on Jan. 23 against Washington. In the two games against Portland, Carroll shot 10-of-13 from the field and made all five of his attempts Saturday.
“That’s what I got to do,” Carroll said. “Every night. I don’t know how much I’m going to play, but whenever they call on me, my opportunity is there, I just got to take it.”
Kings at Jazz
O At EnergySolutions Arena
Tipoff • Monday, 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports, NBA TV
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 26-22; Kings 17-32
Season series • Tied, 1-1
About the Jazz • Utah’s three-game winning streak was snapped with a 105-99 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. ... Guards Gordon Hayward (sprained shoulder) and Earl Watson (lower right leg injury) are both listed as doubtful. ... The Jazz and Kings wrap up their season series on Saturday at Sleep Train Arena. ... The Jazz beat the Kings 104-102 on Nov. 23, but lost 107-98 the next night in Sacramento.
About the Kings • Sacramento has lost seven of its last eight games, including a 120-81 blowout at New York on Saturday. ... Former BYU guard Jimmer Fredette averages 7.5 points per game. ... DeMarcus Cousins leads the Kings with 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He leads the NBA with 10 technical fouls.