SAN ANTONIO — This might be Tyrone Corbin's first NBA playoff rodeo, but the first-time playoff coach showed how much he values experience in the postseason.
Despite the Jazz's recent success — winning five straight to get into the playoffs — Corbin tweaked his lineup for Game 1 against San Antonio.
Less than a week after returning from knee surgery, veteran Josh Howard replaced midseason pick-up DeMarre Carroll at the small forward spot.
"I just thought it would be the best thing to give us a chance in the beginning of the ballgame," Corbin said prior to his postseason coaching debut.
Howard grabbed four rebounds in 16-and-a-half minutes in the Jazz's 106-96 loss, but the small forward went scoreless after missing four shots, including a very wayward 3-pointer.
"Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make the four shots that I took," Howard said, "but being out there playing defense and getting the rebounds that I got, it felt great."
Howard, who turned 32 on Saturday, brought 62 games of playoff experience into this game. He was a key cog on his Dallas team — with Devin Harris — that made it to the 2006 NBA Finals.
Corbin values that postseason resume, and the coach liked what he saw from Howard after he played in two games and participated in a couple of practices last week following his month absence after having a scope surgery on his left knee.
Before Tuesday's playoff-clinching win over Phoenix, Howard hadn't played since March 18, missing 19 games.
He started in 15 straight games prior to his surgery.
The start was surprising for Howard.
"But," he added, "I'm here for my teammates and to help us get as far as we can in the playoffs."
Carroll, picked up in February after being waived by Denver, started the final nine games of the regular season for the Jazz because of injuries. Utah went 7-2 in that stretch.
"I've just got to keep being a true professional and handle my business whenever I get out there," Carroll said. "It's not like I'm only playing for the Utah Jazz. I'm auditioning for the whole league. My whole thing is every time I step on the floor, do what I do. You can't get down."
Carroll scored seven points and hauled in four rebounds with a blocked shot and assist in almost 22 minutes off the bench.
"I feel like when I was (a starter) I did a good job of contributing. We had a lot of chemistry and we went on a little run," Carroll said before tipoff. "Now I've got to go and help the second group."
ONE-NOT-DONE: Gordon Hayward hit the basketball map while leading Butler to the 2010 NCAA championship game, but Sunday was his first time in an NBA playoff game.
After Game 1's results, Hayward is happy he's in the pros.
"Everybody's been asking me, 'You played in an NCAA game, are they similar?'" Hayward said. "One thing that's different is our season would be done if it was NCAA. We've got three more games to make a run at this and make adjustments and try to come back."
And that would only get the Jazz to the Elite Eight.
STORMY HOMECOMING: On Saturday, Blake Ahearn's wife and newborn baby were discharged from a St. Louis hospital where they'd been since itty-bitty Blake Rachelle was prematurely born on March 19.
Their first night together in their apartment was nerve-wracking, though — and not because daddy was away or for any medical reasons.
A violent storm threatened the area, forcing the Jazz guard's wife, Ricki, and 5-week-old daughter to take shelter in a closet.5 comments on this story
"They were having tornado warnings and baseball-sized hail, so they weren't home for two hours and they were already taking cover," said Ahearn, whose wife called him while snuggled in the closet with their baby. "Once that kind of blew through everything went well, first night's down."
A day later, Ahearn made his NBA postseason debut, playing the final two minutes against the Spurs.