Bench stepping up when called upon

Published: Saturday, March 17 2012 11:31 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin has got a problem on his hands.

But it's a good problem to have.

It seems that every time his team has someone missing in action, somebody else promptly steps up and does an admirable job of filling in for the absentee.

Saturday's 99-92 overtime victory over Golden State was a perfect example.

With starting center Al Jefferson, Utah's leading scorer and rebounder, gone to attend his grandmother's funeral, second-year center/forward Derrick Favors was thrust into the starting lineup. The 6-foot-10 youngster, who won't even turn 21 years old until July, responded with 23 points and 17 rebounds — both career-best numbers that even Big Al would be mighty proud of.

With Utah trailing by three points and time running out, Favors broke down the lane for a dunk, was fouled on the play and wound up with the subsequent three-point play with 27.8 seconds left in regulation, tying the score at 87 and setting the stage for overtime.

"I knew I had to make up for Al being absent," Favors said. "So Coach (Corbin) wanted me to be aggressive, and I came out and I was aggressive."

What's more, with Jefferson out of the lineup, Favors' backup at center, rookie Enes Kenter, got nearly 20 minutes on the floor and pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds.

And with backup point guard Earl Watson also missing in action with an ankle injury — he's been in California getting treatment for the injury, just as he did earlier this season — Jamaal Tinsley received a lot more playing time than he's accustomed to getting.

Tinsley, who's averaged less than 10 minutes a night on the court and hasn't even played in 26 of the team's 44 games — 22 of those DNP's (Did Not Play) were due to Coach Corbin's decision to keep Tinsley on the bench — came through with 13 points, two assists and a couple of rebounds in nearly 23 minutes. He came into Saturday's game averaging just 2.5 points per game.

"I got the opportunity to play some extra minutes, and the shots were just going in and we got a big win," Tinsley said.

And while C.J. Miles didn't do much (4 points, 3 steals and an assist in 17-plus minutes) filling in for injured starting shooting guard Raja Bell, who's been plagued by a strained left adductor muscle, Gordon Hayward continued his sparkplug role off the bench.

Hayward, a second-year swingman who was Utah's lottery pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, wound up with 12 points and six rebounds. He slammed down a coast-to-coast dunk that tied the game at 82 — and brought a roaring crowd to its feet — late in regulation, and he hit a huge jumper that gave Utah a 91-87 lead early in overtime.

Jeremy Evans, who like Tinsley is another seldom-used role player, got an opportunity, too, and contributed 5 points, 5 rebounds, a steal and a block in nearly 13 highly productive minutes — double his average playing time.

"Coach (Corbin) always says that when he calls your name, you've got to be ready," Evans said. "I went out and just tried to do what I do and bring energy.

"When one guy goes down, someone has to step up. Of course, we missed (Jefferson) but we still have to get out there and play. (Tonight) was a confidence-builder."

But when everybody comes back, how will Corbin distribute the playing time? Can he keep everybody happy and, more importantly, productive? Those questions remain to be answered as the Jazz continue their push for a playoff spot.

But with so many role players who seem so eager to play and produce when given the opportunity, it's a good problem to have.

email: rhollis@desnews.com

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