Utah Jazz: Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson come up big in Mo Williams' absence
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz continued a somewhat unexpected trend with their 97-93 win in Orlando on Sunday night.
The team improved to 4-1 without their captain and one-time All-Star point guard available for action.
They'd rather not test their luck, but the Jazz can only hope that continues if Mo Williams is out for an extended period of time with the right thumb injury he suffered Saturday in Utah's blowout loss at Miami.
Williams will be evaluated by team physician Lyle Mason and undergo another MRI to determine the extent of damage. The 30-year-old required surgery in 2008 for a similar injury.
This much is sure: The Jazz are feeling fortunate they have a pair of veteran playmakers to fill in for Williams while he's out.
Both Jamaal Tinsley (11 points, four assists) and Earl Watson (eight assists) played key roles in helping the Jazz salvage their 2-2 pre-Christmas road trip with their play in Orlando.
"I thought that the duo of (Tinsley) and Earl ... one is not good without the other," Williams said of the two diverse point guards after Sunday's win.. "I think we need both of those guys to play well, and I think they showed that (Sunday)."
The 6-foot-3 Tinsley wrapped up the Jazz victory by getting a defensive rebound and then hitting two free throws after Gustavo Ayon purposely missed a second foul shot in hopes of getting a game-tying tip-in in the last seconds.
"It is tough, you don't wish that on anybody," Tinsley said, referring to Williams' thumb injury. "This is just the nature of the beast. I get another opportunity to go out there and play. We want him to get well and come back soon.
"This is just the NBA," he added. "Somebody goes down and somebody else get the opportunity to play. ... We just have to figure out a way to win ballgames and do the right thing."
Coach Tyrone Corbin called Tinsley and Watson "true professionals" after the Jazz ended their road trip on a high note. He has been rotating their minutes behind Williams almost equally to keep them fresh yet involved in case a situation like this happened.
"Jamaal and Earl came in and did a tremendous job for us. They pushed the pace," Corbin said. "These guys do everything they can to help us win and it was an indication (Sunday)."
Williams sprained his right thumb earlier this season but played through the discomfort. He missed three games with a sprained right foot and another one with a strained right adductor.
Until he's ready to return, Williams said he will sit on the bench with his teammates, so he can continue to be the vocal leader. Some injured players attend games but opt to watch from the training room.
"I'd die in the back. I won't make it just sitting in the back," Williams said. "I'm going to have to be in the action in some kind of way."
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