Utah Jazz: Short-handed Jazz could use another road win tonight
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — There's no way the Utah Jazz would admit they were in a Titanic-like crisis, even if it were the case.
Thanks to their latest come-from-behind win — and Al Jefferson's timely tip-in in Toronto — they don't need to search for available lifeboats on a season that remains floating.
For now, at least.
But with the rampant injuries and all of the personnel movement, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin agrees that his players are in an all-hands-on-deck situation.
"We've got so many guys in and out of the lineup," Corbin said, "that everybody has to be ready on any given night."
Such was the case Wednesday, when Corbin used every available body in eking out a much-needed victory against the Raptors after trailing by 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Everybody in uniform played a role in what could be considered a season-saving win — from Jazz newcomer Marcus Cousin, who played shortly on his first day (of 10) with the team despite not having a name on his jersey, to Earl Watson and C.J. Miles in an extended stretch in the fourth quarter.
There was even a Kyrylo Fesenko sighting.
"It was huge for us," Corbin admitted from Minnesota, where the Jazz will take on the Timberwolves tonight. "After the performance we had in New York (a 22-point loss), it was great to see the guys bounce back. ... We fought back and it was a good win."
Another good win will be needed tonight for the Jazz to remain relatively close in the playoff chase.
Currently, Utah (34-31) trails eighth-place Memphis (36-30) by 11/2 games. But ninth-place Phoenix (33-29) has a half-game on the Jazz.
Making matters more interesting, Houston (33-33) has been playing well of late and is lurking just 11/2 games behind Utah.
Meaning, of course, games against lower-tier teams like Toronto (17-47) and Minnesota (16-50) are critical to pick up and potentially disastrous to drop. That's especially true with the Jazz in Chicago (45-18) on Saturday night, when it'll be awfully tough to win in front of what should be a charged-up Bulls crowd with the 20-year reunion of the 1991 NBA Finals-winning squad.
Corbin advocated the importance of his team playing well tonight. The Jazz are well aware of each game's significance now that the postseason is just over a month away.
"We want to make sure that we come out and be ready from the beginning of the game to play a 48-minute game," Corbin said, "and play the style of basketball that we're trying to focus on, not dependant on what the other team's doing.
"We want to be a hard-nosed team," he added, "that's going to play 48 minutes of tough basketball and just focus on our performance and not necessarily what they're doing."
The challenge is, the Jazz still aren't sure who they'll have available to do what they want to do tonight.
Ronnie Price (toe) and Mehmet Okur (back) are definitely out, while Francisco Elson (ankle and knee) is doubtful to play. Jeremy Evans, who made his first NBA start Wednesday, also has an undisclosed injury and didn't practice Thursday, so his situation is up in the air.
That becomes significant depending on whether or not Paul Millsap (knee) is able to go. If neither Millsap, a game-time decision after sitting out Wednesday, nor Evans can go, Corbin will have to turn to Plan C.
And that gets tricky depending on whether or not Andrei Kirilenko (back), also a game-time decision, is healthy enough to go after missing Wednesday's win.
Corbin said he'll have a better handle on it at today's shootaround.
When it comes to the big picture, though, Corbin is a realist. He knows that the Jazz's postseason fate likely hinges on whether or not Millsap and Kirilenko are able to return healthy enough to provide their usual contributions.
"If we're going to have any chance, we're going to need as many bodies and as much experience as we can get back onto the floor and have a chance to make a push here at the end," Corbin said.
"It would be huge for them to get back onto the floor and play their particular roles on the team. ... (It will) give us a chance to compete and get back into the playoff run and then have a chance to have success once we get in there."
With or without his starters, Corbin hopes his guys come out and give him the first back-to-back wins in his young head coaching career against a team whose record doesn't matter when it plays the Jazz.
"We can't afford to relax," Corbin said. "We've had close games with them in the past."
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