One day, perhaps, DeMarcus Cousins will finish a game against Utah and then, only then, will the Jazz know how they stack up with the full-strength Sacramento Kings.
But on Monday night, the Jazz had plenty of trouble with the low-fat version.
The Jazz had dust off their intensity and hot shooting in overtime to top the Kings 98-91, in front of 17,742 at EnergySolutions Arena.
Cousins, the gifted but bombastic center, was ejected at halftime after he was slow to leave the court and, he later said, told the referee not to “act like an effing female.” It was the second straight game this season he has been ejected against the Jazz, after being tossed in the third quarter of the Jazz’s loss in Sacramento on Nov. 24.
If any team can relate about playing without key players, it’s the Jazz. They’re in a constant, swirling state of evolution. Their players are growing, both out of natural progression and survivalism. Alec Burks is being broken in as a point guard, and Monday was his best performance in the role alongside Randy Foye, who scored a team-high 20 points (six in overtime).
“At first I thought playing him at the one take away what he do,” Jazz center Al Jefferson said, “which is score. But I think the more and more that he plays, he get more and more comfortable.”
Burks played a season-high 31 minutes, including the final 22:33 of the game, and scored 14 points. He was also responsible for four of the Jazz’s inexpert 22 turnovers.
“It has put him at a little bit of a disadvantage playing point guard more than anything,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “But with he and Randy on the floor together, they are able to split the duties a little bit, and at time initiate, at times be the secondary guy.”
Jefferson recorded his 23rd double-double of the season, finishing with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
DeMarre Carroll and Derrick Favors, meanwhile, continued their strong play off the bench, finishing with 10 and 13 points respectively, while Favors added nine rebounds.
“We’re working some things out in the rotation and some personnel,” Corbin said. “But they all stayed together and as a result we were able to tough out a win here.”
On the flip side: The Jazz needed everyone to deplete a depleted version of one of the NBA’s most sympathetic teams.
Losing Cousins, their leading scorer and rebounder thanks to his NBA-high 11th and 12th technical of the season, didn’t have the negative effect on the Kings’ one might expect. Sacramento outscored the Jazz 23-18 in the third quarter and they took a 66-62 lead into the fourth quarter.
Forward Jason Thompson led the Kings with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while guard Tyreke Evans scored 20 points.
“When DeMarcus went out,” Foye said, “that was huge for us because he was active. ... But it just made my job a lot harder with Tyreke Evans because every play he was coming right at me.”
However, Evans missed a driving layup attempt with 1:28 left in overtime that would have cut the Jazz’s lead to 90-89. The Jazz outscored the Kings 8-4 the rest of the way.
The Jazz had the last possession of regulation and could have won the game outright, but Foye’s was cut off on a drive into the paint and with 3 seconds left had no choice but to kick outside to Jefferson, who has made two 3-pointers in his career.
This one was well short.
“I did it on purpose,” Jefferson joked. “I just wanted to go to overtime.
O The Jazz shoot 52.8 percent from the field and beat the Kings 98-91.
• Utah is 3-0 in overtime games this season, with earlier wins over Toronto and Indiana.
• Six Jazz players reach double figures, led by 20 from Randy Foye.