DeMarre Carroll’s game log over the previous 11 contests listed seven “Did Not Play — Coach’s Decisions.” Alec Burks knows something about that role, too, having played his way out of bench arrest only in the second half of the season. Jamaal Tinsley, sometimes the Utah Jazz’s backup point guard, sometimes not, spent the hour before the latest must-win game alternating ice and heat on his 35-year-old knees, discussing not-so-distant plans for a career in coaching.
Along with Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors, they make up a hodgepodge Utah Jazz lineup that played six minutes together through the first 76 games of the season. Against New Orleans in Game 77, they kept alive hopes for a run to the postseason, propelling the Jazz to a 95-83 win over the Hornets.
“We just bring energy,” Tinsley said.
In seven minutes, the group turned a 24-17 hole into a 36-31 lead and the Jazz never again trailed. They forced four turnovers in that span and were more aggressive defensively, playing the first half of the second quarter like it was the final minute of a close game.
“I think we were just out there scrapping,” Carroll said, “and we knew we had to bring energy. We couldn’t lose this game and we just did what we had to do.”
With the Jazz down seven entering the second quarter and Marvin Williams sidelined due to tendinitis in his right heel, Corbin turned to Carroll and the hodgepodge unit to reverse the deficit.
Millsap scored 13 of his 20 points in that quarter, while Tinsley, Carroll and Burks provided a disruptive energy, which Tinsley described as, “just trying to get all the 50-50 balls and knowing the situation and the magnitude of every game we play; knowing what it takes to win ballgames and what we got to do.”
The win kept the Jazz within a half game of the Los Angeles Lakers for eighth in the Western Conference playoff chase and was the Jazz’s sixth victory in their last seven games. With five games remaining, any loss could be enough to derail playoff hopes, particularly one to the Hornets, owners of the second-worst record in the West.
Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 23 points on 5-of-10 shooting from 3, including 20 points in the second half. Solid performances abounded — 10 rebounds and six assists to complement Millsap’s 20 points; a triple-double flirtation for Favors, as well, with 10 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks — but they were overshadowed by a not-so-unsung Carroll. Following the win, he received much of the credit, thanks to a balanced six points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals in 26 minutes.
“That kind of sparked them up,” Hornets rookie Anthony Davis said of Carroll, who totaled 19 minutes in the last 11 games.
Despite starting a dozen games this season, Carroll has been forced to the end of the bench thanks to the emergence of Burks, as well as the solid play of Hayward and Marvin Williams.
But there was no rust Friday.Next Page »