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Utah Jazz's 3-point shooting finally improving

Published: Wednesday, March 14 2012 12:43 a.m. MDT

Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) battles to get his shot off with San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) Feb. 20, 2012 at Energy Solutions arena in Salt Lake City.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz have been holding out on everybody.

Turns out, they really can shoot and make 3-pointers.

While going 7-for-11 in the second half Monday — after going 0-for-3 in the previous three halves — the Jazz even unveiled their biggest threat from outside: 6-foot-10, 289-pound Al Jefferson.

Big Al drilled the first trey of his eight-year NBA career with four seconds remaining in the Jazz's 105-90 win over Detroit. He's now 1-for-24 from beyond the arc, which, not surprisingly, led to humorous questions and comments.

"Can I start shooting threes?" Jefferson asked Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin while being interviewed at Tuesday's practice.

Smiling, Corbin said he'd discuss the matter with cameras off.

As Jefferson's self-proclaimed agent, guard Earl Watson joked that he will push to get Big Al in both the Skills Challenge (due to all those he assists he recently had) and the 3-point contest next All-Star Weekend.

Kidding aside, the big night from outside was a shot in the arm of sorts for the Jazz. The NBA's second-worst 3-point shooting team needed an in-game reminder of how much it helps and creates space when they hit from deep.

"It opens up a lot," Corbin said, "because now you've got to play Al and Paul (Millsap) and Derrick (Favors) and those guys inside more one-on-one."

Jefferson thought it was important that Jazz shooters set their feet, focused and shot to make the long-ball attempts.

"When you're hitting shots behind the 3-point line, it's kind of difficult to double-team your man and get out and recover," Jefferson said. "Them making threes helped me. ... I think it's really important that we're making those shots because teams have to pick and choose their poison."

The Jazz had secured the victory over the Pistons before Jefferson made his 3-pointer, but the long ball capped a 33-point game he played in honor of his late grandmother.

Jefferson joked that he even considered spicing up his shot.

"Everything was just falling for me," said Jefferson, who hit 14 of 18 field goals. "I thought of, like, jump-hooking it from the 3-point line. It probably would've went in too."

NO P.T.: Corbin doesn't particularly like not giving rookie Alec Burks — or others — playing time. But he thought other wings, particularly C.J. Miles, were playing well so he couldn't find "quality" minutes for Burks.

"Alec's been great. ... He understands there's a lot of learning going on. There's a lot of guys here that's capable of playing," Corbin said. "He's a young guy who's looking for an opportunity. He's been really super about making the most of the minutes he gets and being ready."

Burks could be the one who plays while Miles — or others — sit tonight or in future games. Most of the Jazz players should get opportunities this week as they play four games in the next five nights.

"It's tough for the guys in some spots because some nights they may not get the minutes they're looking for," the second-year coach admitted. "We've got a lot of games coming up. We need everybody to be ready to go. We'll try to keep everybody as fresh as we can."

DEAL DILEMMA: With the trade deadline only a day away, Corbin knows players might be a bit on edge — especially guys whose names have been rumored to be on the trading block. (Devin Harris, Millsap and Miles are the guys whose names have surfaced the most in trade rumors.)

"It's just an uneasy time for everybody," Corbin said. "But you can't control it. You try to tell the guys as much as you can (to) worry about the things you can control. It's difficult for players."

INJURY UPDATE: Raja Bell's MRI test results showed "mild changes to the structure of his left knee consistent with someone of his NBA experience level," according to team orthopedist Dr. Lyle Mason. The 35-year-old Bell practiced Tuesday and will play tonight. ... Starting small forward Josh Howard didn't practice due to soreness in his right Achilles heel, but he is also expected to go.

Email: jody@desnews.com

Twitter: DJJazzyJody

Blog: Jazzland.blogs.deseretnews.com

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