NEW ORLEANS — The Utah Jazz only had nine players Monday night, and the shorthanded squad looked like it might get even more shorthanded after two of their starters left the court with injuries.
Fortunately, Utah coaches Tyrone Corbin and Jeff Hornacek, both former Jazz players, don't need to get fitted for uniforms for Wednesday's season finale.
Paul Millsap and C.J. Miles returned momentarily after getting hurt, and both players laughed about their injuries after Utah's 90-78 victory over the Hornets.
But for the record, Millsap did his laughing off camera by request.
That's because the Jazz's starting power forward looked more like a boxer than a basketball player after this TKO. Millsap took an elbow to the face while going up for a rebound, leaving the skin below his right eye cut and swollen.
The heavyweight wasn't sure which New Orleans truck hit him, but the blow forced him out of the game.
"I sat out to get my vision back," he said.
Millsap re-entered midway in the fourth quarter, but he jokingly claimed his vision didn't return with him right away.
"I got on the court and missed a layup. I want to blame that on that," Millsap said, chuckling. He then added, "It didn't affect me too much."
That was evident soon after when Millsap drilled two jump shots and hit a runner.
Center Al Jefferson took a verbal jab at his locker neighbor about that. While busting up, Big Al joked: "Paul with one eye he can't make a layup, but he can hit two jumpers."
As for Miles, he jammed his left knee while driving to the hoop — an injury he's suffered on previous occasions this season but played through.
The Jazz called a 20-second timeout and Miles was checked out after limping to the bench, but he returned and continued to play after gingerly walking it off.
"It felt like a bad funny bone is what it felt like," he said, "because I jammed it into the ground so hard it felt like a shock wave (went) up, and it hurt."
Utah can scarcely afford to suffer another injury. Andrei Kirilenko, Raja Bell, Ronnie Price, Kyrylo Fesenko and Mehmet Okur did not make the trip because of their health issues.
MUCH BETTER: Miles finally found his shooting groove after experiencing a four-game slump, so it figures he wouldn't want to leave Monday's game.
Miles had scored in single digits in four straight games before he snapped out of that funk with 10 points in the first quarter. He finished with 18 points and hit 6-of-9 shots after scoring only 18 points on 9-for-37 shooting in his previous four games.
Smiling again, Miles was noticeably happier after this one than he'd been in some time.
"I just wanted to be able to be out there and play. If the shots come, take them with confidence and knock them down," he said. "I just wanted to play aggressive when the chances were there.
"If you're open, knock them down. If not, try to make plays and pass the ball, not force anything," Miles added. "And I was just able to get open, try to move without the ball and try to get some easy shots and I knocked some shots down tonight."
PEACH FUZZ: If there's one thing Gordon Hayward has learned this season, it's that people pay attention to what he does (and tweets and eats). That's why the rookie, who had another strong outing Monday with 14 points, didn't act shocked when asked about the visible stubble on his face.
He's not a hockey player or on Memphis, so the scruffy look isn't for playoff purposes. But, inquiring minds wonder, is there a reason for the beard?
Is it so the 21-year-old going on 15 in the fresh-face department looks older and meaner? Did he lose a bet? Does his girlfriend like furry faces?
"I just haven't shaved," Hayward said, ending the mystery in somewhat disappointing fashion. "I need to shave."
"Me too," joked fellow rookie Jeremy Evans.
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