Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Having Earl Watson and Ronnie Price in the same backcourt isn't all that physically imposing for Jazz opponents.
But the tandem of small point guards can cause trouble — just ask the Sacramento Kings. The 6-foot-1 Watson and 6-foot-2 Price helped the Jazz start to pull away from the Kings in a 94-83 victory on Monday night.
Watson and Price certainly haven't played small when they've been in games together.
"I never knew we were undersized. That's all news to me," Watson said jokingly. "We never see it that way. We go out there and play hard, and at the same time I think opponents respect us. If not, we try to earn it."
Watson and Price certainly did that against the Kings, helping to stretch a 22-20 lead to 43-32 in the first eight minutes of the second quarter. Price scored four of his nine points during the period and Watson had two assists. Both players provided energy and defense, as they always do.
"Those two are pretty aggressive on-ball defenders," said Jazz reserve Francisco Elson, who was on the floor with Watson and Price for a little more than five minutes of the second quarter. "They push the tempo. Me, (Kyrylo Fesenko), and whoever comes off the bench has to follow them with the same intensity. You see what happens when they pick up the intensity. The whole crowd gets into it. The first team gets into it and you have a good game."
Both players say they're enjoying being on the court at the same time.
"I think it gives us a lot of energy in the backcourt," Watson said. "I think I feed off Ronnie's energy and hopefully it's vice-versa. We just continue to build on it, put pressure on them on defense, get steals, get in transition and make it a fun game."
It's a luxury to have two players who can handle the ball from baseline to baseline such as Watson and Price.
"When you have two guys that can handle the ball in the same backcourt there's a sense of relief knowing another guy can take the pressure off of you if you need it," Price said. "I think he feels the same way. If he's getting pressured I can bring the ball up the floor and get us in our offense. We have a good little thing working right now and hopefully we can continue to get better."
Watson helped the Jazz begin to build momentum in the second quarter when he stole a pass by Sacramento's Beno Udrih. Watson then drove in transition and threw an alley-oop to C.J. Miles. The play gave the Jazz a 35-29 lead and forced the Kings to call a 20-second timeout.
Watson, in his first season with the Jazz, said his confidence is growing and he's getting more comfortable with his role in Utah. And now, Jazz fans are starting to see why their team went out and signed him as a free agent.
"He is a veteran player, a professional," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "He's just a wonderful guy to have on your team."
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