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Next men up: Jazz long ago became accustomed to playing short-handed. Looks like the stretch run will be the same way.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) goes for a loose ball along with Charlotte Hornets guard Dwayne Bacon (7), in NBA action between the Utah Jazz and the Charlotte Hornets, in Salt Lake City, Monday, April 1, 2019.

It started in last Friday’s win against the Wizards, when Donovan Mitchell got hit in the eye and had to head to the locker room for a time. Big man Derrick Favors soon joined him there, exiting with back spasms. Then, just as Mitchell was returning, Raul Neto took a blow to the head that first required stitches to his lip and later necessitated he sit out with concussion-like symptoms.

On Monday, before defeating the Hornets, it was announced that Favors was still out, but Neto was questionable to play. The Brazilian ultimately did just that, but his return was offset by sharp-shooting wing Kyle Korver sitting out with right knee soreness. Then, to compound the short-handedness, versatile forward Jae Crowder departed in the third quarter with a quad contusion and did not return.

Oh, and of course, Dante Exum is out indefinitely after surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon.

Every team ever will say “next man up” in response to a player going out, but with five games remaining in the season and the exact nature of their playoff fortunes still yet to be determined, the Jazz — who have already seen their fair share of injuries this season — really and truly don’t have any other choice.

“It’s funny — the first play I thought about running when Ricky [Rubio] came out, when I was at the point, was a play for Kyle that I run pretty much every time he comes in to the game,” Mitchell said Monday night. “And it was like ‘Whoa, he’s not there.’ It’s an adjustment.”

There will have to be plenty of that in the regular season’s stretch run, apparently.

The victory over the Hornets was Utah’s fifth in a row, and its 10th in its past 11 games, owing partly to playing myriad lottery-bound opponents. But if the Jazz hope to earn home-court advantage in their first-round playoff series, there remains work to do, as they are still several games back of Houston and Portland for the third and fourth seeds, respectively.

With uncertainty as to who is available for Wednesday night’s game in Phoenix, continuing the hot streak may again necessitate rotational adjustments that amount to robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Favors still out? That should mean more Ekpe Udoh backing up Rudy Gobert at the five, and more Crowder at the four. But what if Crowder remains sidelined too? Well then, more Thabo Sefolosha and Georges Niang. Except, Thabo got some rare minutes at the three vs. the Hornets, on account of Joe Ingles playing some extra second-unit point guard — or even shooting guard when Mitchell shifts to the one or if Neto is in. OK then, some extra Royce O’Neale is in order too, in that case.

If it sounds like a lot of mixing and matching, well, it is. Nevertheless, the Jazz say it doesn’t faze them.

“We play 10 guys — sometimes we play more,” said coach Quin Snyder. “And everybody that steps on the floor knows who they are and what they can contribute to the team.”

Sefolosha and O’Neale both played just under 23 minutes off the bench on Monday. Neto got just over 13. Niang and Udoh played about nine apiece.

“Yeah, you gotta come in with a positive attitude and really be ready to make things happen out there, whether that’s defensively or making shots. You really just gotta come in and leave your prints on the game,” said Niang. “[The coaches] do a great job of preparing us for these types of situations, so it’s seamless coming right in and fitting into the role that they need from us.”

That, as much as anything, is key. He was part of a makeshift second unit against the Hornets — along with Udoh, Crowder, Ingles and Neto — that struggled to put points on the board (lacking a natural score-first player as it did), but which bought some valuable minutes of rest for Gobert (who played just over 39 minutes despite five fouls) and Mitchell (who played just under 37).

Niang added that while it may be impossible for him to totally emulate whomever he might be filling in for, he has to find ways to contribute.

“You just have to do your best of filling a role — what the team needs at that point,” he said. “If Jae’s out, they need a playmaker or a facilitator, and a rebounder and an aggressive guy on defense. I don’t think you can replace all of that, but you want to replace parts of it.”

Having that many moving parts at this point of the season is a challenge, to be sure, But then, considering this is a team that has played with all three of its true point guards simultaneously hurt, it would also seem it’s nothing that they can’t handle.

“We just kind of expect it. Obviously it’s never a good thing to have guys injured or out, but every time it happens, we just know that someone else will step up, someone else will play well, obviously play a different role, play more minutes, whatever,” said Ingles. “I didn’t even think about it [vs. the Hornets], to be honest, ’cause it’s just expected. It’s what our team does.”

JAZZ AT SUNS

At Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix


Tipoff • 8 p.m. MT

TV • AT&T SportsNet

Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM

Records • Jazz 47-30; Suns 18-60

Last meeting • Jazz, 125-92 (March 25)

About the Jazz • They played Monday’s game vs. Charlotte without Derrick Favors (back) and Kyle Korver (knee), and finished it without Jae Crowder (quad). … Utah has won five consecutive games, and 10 of its last 11 overall. … While the Jazz have the second-best defensive rating overall this season, they have struggled to contain high-scoring guards the past three games, with Charlotte’s Kemba Walker scoring 47, Phoenix’s Devin Booker totaling 59, and Washington’s Bradley Beal getting 34.

About the Suns • Phoenix earned a 122-113 victory over Cleveland on Monday that snapped a six-game losing streak. … Booker posted a relatively modest 25 points and 13 assists vs. the Cavs after going off for 59, 50, and 48 points against the Jazz, Wizards, and Grizzlies, respectively, in his previous three games. … After failing to get off the bench the prior two games, BYU product Jimmer Fredette scored six points in just under six minutes on Monday.

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