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The Jazz have endured injuries and droughts. The lineups often have been piecemeal and, at times, it’s felt as though circumstances forced Tyrone Corbin to insert players like picking teams on the playground.
But while it seemed the Jazz’s third-year coach already tried and trusted every lineup imaginable, he said Monday before his team’s 100-94 win over the Dallas Mavericks, "I think we’ve got a few more in the bag."
In short Jazz 100, Mavericks 94Gordon Hayward scores a season-high 27 points to lead the Jazz to their second win over the Mavericks this season.
But how far did he have to reach to come up with this one?
Corbin forsook logic, benched both of his traditional point guards and used a ball-handling trio of Gordon Hayward, Randy Foye and Alec Burks for the final 5 minutes, 59 seconds in front of 18,600 at EnergySolutions Arena. In that time, the Jazz went on a 13-0 run in which the they turned an 86-80 deficit into a 93-86 advantage.
"We’ve always thought about it," Corbin said, "and found the right time to do it."
Add in some tenacious defense and timely shooting from Al Jefferson, and the Jazz — don’t say it too loudly — found a winning recipe.
"I thought we were physical with them," Hayward said. "They’re a team with a lot of talent, a lot of scorers. You can’t let them have their way, can’t let them get going."
With the Jazz facing a three-game road trip, Hayward played his best game of the season, scoring a season-high 27 points while adding 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks a steal and avoided committing any turnovers. He made 4 of 5 3-point attempts, including one with 2:19 left to cap the Jazz’s big, momentum-turning run.
"He had just a great flowing game on both ends for us tonight," Corbin said.
Jefferson recorded another double-double, his 16th, with 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, while Burks added a season-high 13 points in his first chance to close a game.
"It’s a long time coming," Burks said. "Beginning of the year I wasn’t even playing. Now to be playing in the fourth, it’s just a great feeling that hard work pays off."
And while Burks can be credited for his execution on a lot of plays, even he had to be feeling lucky after he picked up a loose ball and buried a 26-foot 3-pointer as the shot clock expired with 4:35 left in the game to tie it at 86-86.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle accused the Jazz of "thugging it up," no doubt talking about a play in the fourth quarter when Derrick Favors fell and pulled Dirk Nowitzki, who was playing in his eighth game of the season, down with him.
"I guess it just let Dallas know that we’re not going to be ran over," Jefferson said.
But at no point was the Jazz’s poise and recently found toughness more evident than with 32.2 seconds left when Nowitzki beat Favors off the dribble, and Jefferson, not noted for his defense, slid over to draw a charge with the Jazz clinging to a 96-92 lead.
"He’s not as quick as he used to be," Jefferson said, "and I’m pretty sure he’s not 100 percent yet, but he gave me enough time to jump over in front of him and take the contact."
Nowitzki missed the Mavericks’ first 27 games after preseason knee surgery, but he led the Mavs with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
However, this game may best be remembered for Corbin’s bold decision to test a theory in a critical situation, although in the immediate aftermath of the win he deflected credit.
"The guys have to do the job on the floor," he said.
On Monday, they did.
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