NBA: Utah Jazz lose Marvin Williams but top Hornets 96-84
New Orleans, La. • The Jazz pulled out of chilly New Orleans late Wednesday night, weakened and withered, battered as any unit that suffered losses in victory would surely be battered.
Marvin Williams sat in the trainer's corner of the locker room, glassy eyed and motionless. Mo Williams, unencumbered by the need to shower or have trainers' tape removed, used a plastic fork to paw at pasta with thick chunks of andouille sausage.
But, despite plenty of reasons to gripe and growl, a level of satisfaction that often eludes them here, in the birthplace of the Jazz, coursed through the visitors' locker room.
"Got the win," Al Jefferson said, simplifying the nuanced game of basketball to black and white. "That's all that matters to me."
And for a Jazz team that has been beset by injuries and lineup controversies, earning a 96-84 win that moved them to 9-7 and made them winners of five of their last six, there truly was a sense of accomplishment. Before Wednesday, the Jazz had lost four of their last six games against New Orleans and three straight in the Crescent City.
Still, there were times Wednesday didn't feel so much like a win. They were without starting point guard Mo Williams for the third straight game, and as they worked through that absence, lost Marvin Williams when he banged his head on the floor late in the third quarter.
"It looked like his feet got out from under him and he fell down and his head hit the floor," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "It was a pretty good fall."
Williams was listed with concussion symptoms and did not return. The NBA's concussion policy, implemented a year ago, makes it likely that Williams, if he indeed has a concussion, will not be able to play when the Jazz take on the streaking Oklahoma City Thunder.
So Wednesday was sweet, and it was bitter.
"It was kind of one of them up-and-down games," Jefferson said, "but we just had to finish it off, and I thought we did a great job."
It was a checkpoint game for the Jazz, like notches in a door frame charting growth. On Nov. 2, the Jazz shot a franchise-high 28 3-pointers and clanked their way to an 88-86 loss to New Orleans. Wednesday, they shot a responsible 11 3s and were rewarded by 51 points from their frontline before Marvin Williams went down.
"I think from what we did last time when we came in here and the way we played tonight," Jefferson said. "I'm happy."
Jefferson led all scorers with 19 points, while Paul Millsap bounced back from several poor outings to score 16 points, as did Marvin Williams.
It was sloppy, at times painful and inartful, to say the least. But for a team that previously won just two of its nine road games, the Jazz at a minimum demonstrated improvement. Derrick Favors scored nine points and grabbed eight points in 17 minutes, generating much of his own offense and finishing with finesse, something rarely seen from the third-year player.
Gordon Hayward, in his sixth game coming off the bench, scored 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
But the key for the Jazz was not their scoring. Their defense held New Orleans scoreless for the first seven minutes of the second quarter. And while the Hornets rallied from a nine-point deficit to cut the Jazz's lead to two at halftime, it set the tone for an electric third quarter when the Jazz collected seven steals and forced nine turnovers overall.
"We executed our game plan a lot better," Hayward said.
Hayward did the bulk of his scoring in the fourth quarter, when he poured in 13 points to hold the Hornets at bay. New Orleans tried to find its way back into the game, and cut the Jazz's lead to 76-69 before a Hayward 3 with 7:08 left pushed the lead back into double digits.
"It's a win," Corbin said. "It's a road win for us, it's what we came out to get. We toughed it out, we struggled."
They left New Orleans carrying the same baggage that they brought here and that which they collected Wednesday night. But they also left with a win, which for Jefferson and the Jazz, mattered most.
R The Jazz frontcourt combines for 51 points, with a game-high 19 from Al Jefferson.
• The Jazz win in New Orleans for the first time in their past three tries.
• Marvin Williams exits after hitting his head on the court.