No Mo? No problem for the Utah Jazz, according to Denver coach George Karl
SALT LAKE CITY — As far as George Karl is concerned, the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves are in similar situations in terms of playing without their recently injured big-name guys.
The Denver coach made that point Saturday when asked if the Nuggets felt like they could exploit the Jazz point guards in the absence of Mo Williams.
"No," Karl said before Denver's 110-91 blowout win over Utah. "I love their veteran point guards."
The lopsided loss wasn't exactly a highlight reel for Jamaal Tinsley or Earl Watson — nor for the rest of the Jazz, for that matter. Similar to what Tyrone Corbin has been doing all season, Karl offered a convincing testimony on behalf of Williams' main backups.
Karl even compared them to his ever-steady point guard from the University of Utah, saying Watson and Tinsley are "cerebral, Andre Miller-like guys" who make things click for their team. They'll have to make it click better tonight at home against the Dallas Mavericks than they did Saturday to get back on a winning track.
"Actually, it's kind of like Minnesota. I think they're better without (Kevin) Love on the court half of the time," Karl said. "So, you know, I think these two guys do a great job."
As a starter this season — sample size: 11 games — Tinsley has averaged 6.4 points on 48.2 percent shooting overall and 38.2 percent from 3-point range. The 10th-year veteran has also dished out 6.3 assists, grabbed 2.5 rebounds, made 1.2 steals and averaged 2.6 turnovers in 27.9 minutes.
The Jazz, who are 17-18 overall, have gone 6-5 with Tinsley in a starting role.
For comparison's sake, the Jazz are 11-13 with Williams as the starter this season. The veteran playmaker was averaging 12.9 points on 44.1 percent shooting and 6.7 assists in 31.4 minutes before suffering his injury, which will have him sidelined for at least another six weeks.
Watson, meanwhile, has struggled shooting-wise of late, only shooting 1 for 16 since Williams went down with an injury before Saturday's 3-for-4 night.
However, Watson picked up his up assists average to 5.1 per game in the past seven games, which is up from his season average of 4.2 shares a night.
"They miss Mo's jumper. I know that Mo can make a lot of shots," Karl continued. "Plus, he can make a big shot at the end of the game, but these guys do a great job of getting their units playing well."
Not surprisingly, that's how Corbin views the Nuggets' talented backup guy as well.
"He's a fun guy to watch," the Jazz coach said of Miller, who led the Utes to the 1998 NCAA championship game. "When you think a guy is getting older or he is taking a step back, he gets an opportunity to play more (and) he continues to make his team effective."
Last week, Miller became just the eighth player in NBA history to total at least 15,000 points with 7,500 assists, joining a group that includes Hall of Famers John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas along with Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash.
Miller isn't the speed demon that Denver starting point guard Ty Lawson is — similar to how Tinsley isn't as quick as Williams — but he manages to distribute the ball and execute the Denver offense at an uncanny level for a soon-to-be 37-year-old in his 14th season.
"He has always been a true pro and a true guy to watch," Corbin said. "If the young guys will (just) learn how to understand the game and how you play with not a lot of speed but be effective and how you play and what you do for your team."
Asked why guys like Miller and Tinsley are able to help their teams shoot higher percentages, Karl didn't hesitate to deliver a direct response: "Layups and on-time, on-target passes."
That is a sore subject for Karl, who said he believes high school and college coaches have forgotten to teach their players the importance of delivering the ball at the right time and in the right spot.
One particular Miller pass Saturday night was a prime example. The Nuggets' transition began with a good downcourt pass from Lawson to Miller near 3-point territory. The ex-Ute then adeptly zipped the basketball into a driving Kenneth Faried's hands in the perfect spot for an easy layup.
"Andre delivers the ball and he gets you layups. I think Earl and Tinsley are similar," Karl said, adding that he definitely gives the edge to Miller. "There's no question Andre gets us so many easy baskets, and then when a guy's open he gets (the ball there) on time, on target almost every time."
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