SALT LAKE CITY — Sundiata Gaines became an instant Utah Jazz fan favorite when he hit the most-memorable 3-point shot for the team in many years — a buzzer-beater that burned the Cleveland Cavaliers in January.
But Gaines, as the Jazz's No. 3 option at point guard, has not had many chances to make memories on the court since then.
So with Ronnie Price in street clothes due to a wrist injury on Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena in a game against the Washington Wizards, Gaines took advantage of some extended playing time. He scored a career-best 15 points in 18 minutes.
"I haven't had a game like this in a long time, and I've been in and out of the lineup," said Gaines. "For me to come in and play with energy and get myself back on track and into the flow of the team was good for me and the team."
The Jazz may have to start using Gaines some more out of necessity.
Price, the usual backup to All-Star Deron Williams, is day-to-day with his sore wrist.
And then there is Williams, himself, who is admittedly sore all over.
Monday night in the final seconds of the third quarter Williams was slow to get up following a hard fall to the floor after driving to the basket. He already had shoulder and wrist injuries and that collision hurt his back — although Williams expects to play through it.
"I'm hurting a little bit," Williams said. "It'll be all right though.
I'll just get some treatment (Tuesday)."
Monday's game was the second in a back-to-back set for the Jazz that started Sunday in Oklahoma City. It was also Utah's fifth game in seven nights in seven cities. The schedule doesn't get much lighter, either, as the Jazz still have nine games remaining in March.
"Have you seen (the schedule) the rest of the month?" Williams asked.
"It makes me sad. (Games on) Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday. Then Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and then Monday, Wednesday. And I ain't even looked at April."
While Williams would like to have some more time off from the battering and bruising his body takes in games, Gaines would welcome more playing time. His coach was pleased, for the most part, with how his rookie and former D-League standout has done in the past two games while Price has been out.6 comments on this story
"(Gaines) was a lot more aggressive tonight," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "He's still trying to learn what we are trying to do and getting comfortable with how we want to play. He sometimes has a gait about him that is a little casual and he's not successful when he does that. His success is when he pushes the ball and is aggressive defensively. He's got great hands and he's strong and he needs to be aggressive, and he did that tonight, and I was proud of him."
Gaines even doubled his season total of 3-pointers on Monday by making two of his three attempts. He came into the game with just a pair of treys all year long — including the one that handed Le?Bron James and the Cavaliers a loss.
"Yada played really well," said Williams of Gaines. "He was aggressive scoring the ball and gave us a big boost. He's done a great job in Ronnie Price's absence."