It was a night Al Jefferson probably wants to forget, thanks to Utah’s swarming defense.
Returning to EnergySolutions Arena for the first time after three season as a member of the Jazz, Jefferson struggled to make shots Monday and finished with an inefficient 18 points during Utah’s 83-80 victory over Charlotte.
The Jazz limit Charlotte to 36.9 percent shooting in an 83-80 win over the Bobcats.
Ex-Jazz center Al Jefferson scores 18 points, but he misses 15 of his 23 field-goal attempts.
Charlotte’s point-total of 80 is a season-low by a Jazz opponent.
Jefferson’s new teammates didn’t fare much better.
The Bobcats managed only 53 points through the first three quarters and ended up shooting 36.9 percent as a team.
Charlotte’s 80 points was a season-low by a Utah opponent.
Asked about his team’s post defense on Jefferson, coach Tyrone Corbin said, "It was huge, especially knowing Al and how dominant he can be down there. ...I thought we did a decent job."
Referring to Jazz centers Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, Corbin added, "They did a good job of fighting him off his spots. And the secondary guys did a good job of giving him different looks."
The Jazz were also effective against Kemba Walker, the veteran point guard who is Charlotte’s other major offensive threat.
Like Jefferson, Walker scored 18 points. But he went 6-for-17 from the field, meaning the Bobcats’ leading scorers this season were a combined 14 of 40 against Utah.
"We’re working," Corbin said. "We’re understanding to communicate and how we have to communicate to be effective -- especially against go-to guys like Al."
The Jazz started the game by double-teaming Jefferson nearly every time in touched the ball. He took only six shots in the first quarter and two in the second. He had only six points at halftime.
"We’ve seen him a ton so we know, when he gets the ball in his spots, he has an advantage against anyone in this league," said Corbin.
Jefferson missed two big shots in the final seconds.
The Jazz owned a 78-77 lead when his inside jumper dribbled off the rim.
After Utah bumped its lead to 80-77, Jefferson stepped outside and missed a three-pointer with 10.1 seconds left.
Favors, the first line of defense against Jefferson most of the game, smiled after Utah held its fourth opponent in the last seven games under 100 points.
"Al is going to be Al," Favors said. "He’s going to make hook shots. He’s going to make jump shots. He’s one of those type of players. The only thing I can do is make it tough."
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