Utah Jazz: No Deron Williams, but plenty of 'D' in win
SALT LAKE CITY — The Jimmer was in the house Monday night.
Fortunately for Utah Jazz fans, who gave BYU's basketball star a rousing ovation, Fredette's presence wasn't the only thing to cheer about on this night at EnergySolutions Arena.
Bouncing back from a rough road loss at Golden State on Sunday, the Jazz played their stingiest defensive game of the season en route to a close-call 83-78 victory over Charlotte.
"We played hard," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "After the game we had last night, it really felt good to watch them play a little harder than what we did (Sunday). And when you play hard, you always have a chance to win."
And they did that even without All-Star point guard Deron Williams, who missed his third game in a row with an injured right wrist.
Offensively, the Jazz were carried by center Al Jefferson (21 points, 11 rebounds) and reserve forward C.J. Miles (20 points) while improving to 2-1 in D-Will's absence and to 29-20 on the season.
"With a guy as good as Deron (out), we all have to kind of take a load on ourselves," Jazz guard Raja Bell said. "And I think we've done a good job of that. (Sunday) night was rough, but we're 2-1 right now and we can't wait to get him back."
Utah also got double-doubles from Paul Millsap (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Andrei Kirilenko (13 points, 11 boards).
But defense — not to forget a couple of timely offensive boards by Millsap in the late going — stole the show in this much-needed win. That came as a welcome change, considering the Jazz had given up an average of 105.6 points while losing seven of their last eight games.
The Bobcats' squad, which only scored 34 points combined in the first (18) and fourth (16) quarters, could've used some offensive help from a certain No. 32 in the crowd.
Stephen Jackson went off for 24 points and D.J. Augustin contributed 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. But Charlotte (20-27) was held to 35.6 percent shooting and only a dozen assists while becoming Utah's first opponent to not hit the 80-point mark this season.
"That's a great example of how to play as a team," said Kirilenko, who hit 6-of-10 field goals, blocked three shots and had two steals to counter seven turnovers. "You know we've been helping each other out. We have tough time getting defensively sometimes, but we work through it.
"I am very happy to be part of this team 'cause the guys just play hard."
That extra effort led to Charlotte becoming just the second team to not hold a lead against the previously comeback-crazed Jazz.
But the Bobcats certainly didn't give up after falling behind by double digits on multiple occasions.
The Jazz, still steamed about Sunday's ugly 96-81 loss to the Warriors on ESPN, reeled off the first 11 points of the night.
But the Bobcats stormed back to make it 15-14.
The Jazz spun the same record in the third quarter, surging to an 11-0 streak out of the locker room to go up 54-41.
But the Bobcats stormed back to make it 62-62 by the end of the period.
Doing that déja vu all over again thing yet again, the Jazz scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter.
But — you guessed it — the Bobcats stormed back and trimmed Utah's lead to 79-78. Charlotte even had the ball and a chance to go ahead for the first time with less than two minutes remaining, to boot.
That's when defense, Millsap and an extremely long possession saved the game.
Kirilenko stole an errant pass by Eduardo Najera with 1:21 to go, preventing the Bobcats from getting off a shot to take the lead.
But the Jazz extended the play and gobbled up 41 seconds when they got the ball back after three misses. Millsap crashed the offensive glass twice, and the second time led to his clutch pair of free throws with 40.5 seconds left.
Raja Bell cinched the win with two freebies after rebounding Charlotte's ensuing miss.
The Bobcats seemed OK with the loss, seeing as they didn't foul after Millsap grabbed a rebound with the Jazz up by five with 16.9 seconds remaining.
Earl Watson started for the third game in a row for Williams, but foul trouble limited his playing time to just under 20 minutes. The offense ran smoothly when he was in, and the veteran finished with six assists, five points and three boards.
"I just wanted to come out and be aggressive defensively," said Watson, who had two fouls barely three minutes in with the Jazz up 9-0.
Added Bell: "I thought it was a great effort defensively. We were aggressive defensively … I thought we helped each other out a lot better and rebounded well."
Sure enough, the Jazz outrebounded the Bobcats 49-36, with the most important board landing in Millsap's injured hand.
GAME NOTES: Millsap dislocated his left pinkie early on but returned to action. Kirilenko also sprained his left ankle. X-rays taken on the players' injuries came out negative, and they're considered day-to-day. … The sidelined Williams (wrist) and Mehmet Okur (back) are also day-to-day. … The Jazz improved to 9-1 and 7-0 at home when opponents score less than 90 points. … The previous offensive low for an opponent came on Nov. 22 when Utah beat Sacramento 94-83.
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