Jazz veteran point guards lead Jazz against Suns

Published: Friday, Jan. 4 2013 9:00 a.m. MST

PHOENIX — The Utah Jazz are making their second visit to Phoenix in the past three weeks and this time they hope to enjoy more than just the warm weather.

In the mid-December loss, the Jazz came out listless and lost to the no-name, Steve Nash-less Suns by 15 points — one of a long line of road losses they’ve endured this season.

That defeat, following four straight wins, was the start of a stretch that saw the Jazz lose seven of nine games before winning Wednesday, 106-84, over Minnesota. The Jazz hope to keep it going in Friday’s game at the U.S. Airways Center at 8 p.m. MST.

They’ll have to do it without Mo Williams, who is having thumb surgery Friday and expected to be out six weeks, and perhaps without backup center Enes Kanter, who sprained his ankle late in Wednesday’s win and is questionable for Friday’s game.

With Williams out until at least mid-February, veterans Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson will share point guard duties as they did Wednesday when they each tallied 24 minutes and combined for 14 points and 12 assists. Tinsley and Watson are confident they can hold down the fort during the six weeks Williams is expected to be out.

“Between me and Jamaal we’ve been in professional ball 20-plus years combined, so I don’t think we put too much emphasis on it,’’ Watson said. “We’re just going to go out and play. We’re not going to change who we are, we’re obviously going to get better at doing what we do for different reasons.’’

Scoring is one thing the two vets are not expected to do much of. Tinsley smiled when it was pointed out that he led the team in scoring in the first half Wednesday, something he hadn’t done in five years.

“Those days are over. My biggest thing now is not turn the ball over and make sure we get a good shot,’’ he said. “I know when to be aggressive. I know when our team is not going good and we have to pick our spots to shoot it. I’m trying to control the tempo and not turn the ball over and make sure we get a good shot and attack when I think it’s necessary.’’

Watson says if he has more shot attempts than the rest of the team something is wrong.

“I’m not really big on scoring a lot of points,’’ he said. “It’s not who I am. If guys are rolling we have to continue to find them. Scoring will come — you pick your spots.’’

In Watson’s case, he’s still not 100 percent after having surgery on his right knee last spring.

“For me coming back off my injury, I’m still trying to find my rhythm offensively, so obviously that’s going to get better,’’ he said. “Everything’s going to pick up. My leg feels great, but I haven’t played since Easter. So to finally come back, it’s something that’s new to me and I’m starting to see layers of it unfold.’’

“I feel good about these guys — Jamaal and Earl are doing a good job for us,’’ said coach Tyrone Corbin. “This is our fourth game in without Mo and they are understanding what we have to do to win.’’

So who do the Jazz turn to if Tinsley or Watson both get in foul trouble or, heaven forbid, get hurt?

Corbin said the Jazz would survive “by committee” with Alec Burks or Randy Foye both able to play the point and even Gordon Hayward able to initiate the offense. “They’ll be times when we’ll have to have three guys (play point),’’ he said.

The 12-21 Suns are coming off a 95-89 home win over Philadelphia Wednesday night. They have a balanced attack with a starting lineup of Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat, Goran Dragic, P.J. Tucker and Jared Dudley, none of whom averages more than Dragic’s 14.5 per game. The bench includes lottery picks Markieff Morris, Michael Beasley and Sebastian Telfair and 16-year veteran Jermaine O’Neal and seven-year veteran Shannon Brown.

“They’re an explosive team and they can play with an up-tempo pace,’’ Corbin said. “If you get into a jump-shooting contest with them and don’t rotate quickly to them, they’re capable of hitting 3-point shots and getting opportunities early.’’

After Friday’s game, the Jazz head up to Denver for a Saturday night game before returning to play Dallas at home Monday.

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