Following the Utah Jazz's 104-91 win over Toronto, Eric Maynor was welcomed into the locker room by a loud fan club.
"E-May!" bellowed Carlos Boozer. "Yo, dog! I'm trying to give you some love."
The love Boozer gave — in a glowing postgame comment — was well-deserved.
"He continues to impress me," added Jazz point guard Deron Williams. "He's playing great, composed. He's making plays. It takes a lot of pressure off a lot of people."
Especially, lately, off of Williams.
This was the third game in a row that the rookie point guard played poised and excelled while logging big-time minutes. The Virginia Commonwealth product played the final 14:59 of the game and teamed with Williams to make a formidable backcourt.
The Jazz's first-round pick scored 15 points, dished out six assists and answered questions about whether or not he could co-exist and find playing time with Williams back in action.
Maynor was a pleasant surprise on the Jazz's recent road trip, helping Utah win in Philadelphia with a double-double and then following that up with a 24-point career-high-scoring night in a last-minute loss at Cleveland.
He started both of those road games because Williams was absent to attend to a family medical situation with his young daughter in Utah.
This time, he was clutch when the Jazz needed a boost with Williams on the court.
After Toronto trimmed an 18-point lead to one early in the fourth quarter, Maynor hit a free throw, assisted on an Andrei Kirilenko layup, sank a short running jumper, added a couple more freebies and scored on a fast break to return the lead to double digits at 89-79.
"I've got two words," Boozer said. "Eric Maynor."
Boozer actually couldn't contain himself to that many complimentary words.
"Eric's been playing great, man," he added. "He's stepped in. He's got swag... He's got confidence. When he comes in the game, he knows what he's supposed to do out there and does a great job of doing it."
"Eric," added Jerry Sloan, "gave us a big lift."
The Jazz coach liked how the Maynor-Williams experiment worked out on this night. Having two point guards on the floor — similar to how he used combo guard Ronnie Price before he got injured — makes the Jazz a tough team to guard.
Williams responded well to his point-shooting guard role, finishing with 20 points and nine assists. He liked being out there with Maynor.
"He's a guy who can get me some open shots where I don't have to just try to get everything myself," Williams said.
Maynor, who's averaged 17.3 points the past three games, can light up the scoreboard, too.
"He's a good scorer as well," Williams said. "So we can both distribute, but you have to respect the scoring as well."
Asked how he likes playing with Williams, Maynor smiled: "It's lovely, man."
So, too, is getting increased PT in crunch time.
"Day by day I'm getting more and more confidence," he added. "Coach Sloan is gaining more confidence in me and my teammates are gaining more confidence in me, so I'm cool with that."32 comments on this story
As for Williams, he was happy to be back after missing two games to be with his ill daughter. But things are improving where it counts most — at home.
"It felt good," he said of returning. "I don't like missing games, but I had a matter I had to take care of and I can hopefully focus more on basketball.
"It's a lot better than we thought," he added about his daughter's medical situation, "so we're still running some tests and seeing where things are going."