While the middle pair of games was hard to stomach, the Utah Jazz certainly enjoyed an excellent start and finish to their four-game road stint. In an exciting comeback Sunday, the Jazz defeated the Orlando Magic 97-93 to finish 2-2 on the pre-Christmas trip.
Orlando came out with great energy, building an 16-point lead. But unlike the Indiana and Miami outings, the Jazz responded. With both teams battling injuries, the Jazz rode a collective effort to victory over the hard-working-but-depleted Magic roster. Six Utah players reached double figures.
Point Guard Play: At the Orlando Magic’s helm, former Jazz guard Jacque Vaughn is the youngest head coach in the NBA at 37. His former contemporaries, Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson, are not much younger. Utah’s seasoned vets, who both may have coaching aspirations, both showed they can still contribute to on-court wins.
Filling in for starting point guard Mo Williams, Jamaal Tinsley played a solid game. Not known for his shooting prowess, Tinsley was essentially dared to shoot by Orlando’s backcourt. He answered, hitting 3 of 8 3-pointers, the last one being a crucial part of the Jazz's fourth-quarter comeback. Tinsley finished with 11 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals in 27 minutes.
Watson also was a vital cog with his playmaking and hustle. He orchestrated the bench unit’s offense, notching eight assists with only one turnover.
Young Legs: The venerable vets weren’t the only ones who enjoyed nice games Sunday. The trio of Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, and Alec Burks each made their presence felt.
Hayward and Favors injected some much-needed life to a listless first half for Utah. The former was brilliant offensively, hitting 7-of-10 field goals en route to 17 points off the pine. He was aggressive, yet under control. He made a pair of tricky runners in the fourth.
The latter was impactful on both ends of the court. Favors countered the high-energy Magic bigs (Gustavo Ayon and Nikola Vucevic) with his athleticism. He was 5 of 8 from the field for 12 points. Favors’ defense was huge in the fourth quarter.
Burks took advantage of his extra time on the court, playing a solid floor game. A strong open-court player, the second-year guard scored his eight points within the flow of Utah’s offensive schemes. More importantly, he displayed a well-rounded game with three assists, two rebounds and some defensive intensity. He sported a team-high plus-minus rating of plus-17.
Odds n’ ends:
• In a close game, the importance of free throws is polarized. Orlando was just 8 of 15 (53.3 percent) from the charity stripe. • Likewise, the Magic could not hold onto the ball, committing 19 turnovers to Utah’s modest total of 11. Orlando guard J.J. Redick had seven of those miscues.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.