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Aaron Falk and Steve Luhm cover the Utah Jazz and the NBA for The Salt Lake Tribune. The Tribune on Twitter - Aaron Falk: @tribjazz, Steve Luhm: @sluhm

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Clippers coach Doc Rivers impressed by Trey Burke

Los Angeles • Trey Burke didn't talk to Chris Paul about it. Didn't get a chance to bring up that Oct. 12 preseason play that would have been meaningless except, of course, that it wasn't: Burke in the pick-and-roll with Enes Kanter, firing a bounce pass to the big man and fracturing his finger as he hit Paul.

"We didn't really have time to conversate like that," Burke said. "We were just battling."

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It was a battle that Paul and the Clippers won Saturday night.

But in defeat the Jazz showed a fight they didn't have early in the season.

Burke, who called himself his "biggest critic," was disappointed in his performance. He struggled to get going early, scoring just two points in the first half. And after turning the ball over seven times Friday night against the Lakers, Burke did it six times against the Clippers.

He attributed the problems to getting "different looks" from opposing teams. "Defenses scouting me harder. Now it's my job to scout the next team. I feel like I played kind of fast a couple possessions down the stretch and it cost us."

Maybe so. But without Burke, the Jazz have shown they would be lost.

"Clearly him coming back changed them," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "There's no doubt about that."

The Jazz are 8-11 when Burke starts and 1-11 when he does not.

"You look at where we are now compared to where we were," Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. "He's a huge part of what we felt we had at the beginning of the season. We tried to find our way through and the guys did a job trying to manage it, but we needed all our pieces."

Rivers, a former point guard himself, likes what little he's seen from the rookie.

"I don't want to put a comparison on him because that's the worst thing you can do," he said. "But there are guards who can score. There are guards who are just play makers. Then there is that rare group that can do both. Chris [Paul] is one of those guys. … I think Trey Burke is going to be that."

At 9-24, the Jazz are dead last in the West and only Milwaukee (6-24) has a worse record in the NBA. They're 9.5 games out of the eighth seed with more than 40 percent of the season in the books.

In a year when a handful of potential superstars could be available in the June draft, there are plenty around who would say that's a good spot to be in. But for the coaches and players, the now is all consuming. And it's hard not to wonder where this team might be if Burke hadn't missed the first 12 games of the year.

"You think about it," Corbin said, "but you can't get that back. We have to make sure we move on."

Odds and ends

• After being held out the previous two games, Diante Garrett saw action Saturday. Shooting guard Brandon Rush, who hasn't made a bucket in six games, did not.

• Burke had heavy tape on his left ankle after rolling it Friday night against the Lakers, but he said it felt fine Saturday.

• Rivers was impressed by the Jazz's fight: "They traded half the team away over the summer and their point guard was hurt, yet when you watch them play, you wouldn't know it. They play hard, they play like a team and it's really nice to see."

— Aaron Falk



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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