Considering that the Jazz have now won 3 of their past 5 road games for the first time this season (it's about time), Utah's 112-102 win over Charlotte on Wednesday is a mighty one.
GUARDS: Jamaal Tinsley (9 points on 4-of-8 shooting, 8 assists) was excellent, though Kemba Walker (14 points on 6-of-12 shooting, 6 assists) matched him. The Jazz will take that nullification, though, considering that Tinsley is a dozen years Walker's senior — and that the second-year Bobcat played a dozen more minutes than his veteran counterpart. Alec Burks (12 points, 3 assists, 1 block) was just as excellent as either in five-and-a-half more minutes, and it was encouraging to see Burks, a 36 percent shooter this season, go 4 of 8.
Randy Foye (3 of 6 from the 3-point line, but 3 of 9 overall) strengthened the argument that he should shoot more of his field goal attempts from beyond the arc. Gordon Hayward (14 points on 4-of-10 shooting, but 4 of 5 from distance) might have been wise to do the same — at least on Wednesday. GRADE: B.
FORWARDS: Paul Millsap (19 points on 8-of-12 shooting) may not have built on a stretch in which he nabbed 14 steals in four games. But, he tallied three blocks for the second time in three games and now has three or more assists in 5 of the past 7. Big forward opponent Tyrus Thomas was scoreless in 10 minutes, though backup Hakim Warrick (10 points, 8 rebounds) eclipsed his point and rebound total by four and five, respectively, in 18 minutes — only less than two above his average since getting traded to Charlotte from New Orleans.
DeMarre Carroll (10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, 6 rebounds) filed in nicely — perhaps too nicely for Marvin Williams — in the latter's place. Williams was out for the first of three games with an inflamed right knee. Considering Carroll's performance Wednesday and the two players' comparable effectiveness rating (Carroll plus-7.45 to Williams' plus-9), perhaps Dennis Lindsey and the Jazz general management are learning they could get better bang for their buck in at least one position. Then again, perhaps Williams would have done a better job on rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals — all above his season averages). GRADE: C+.
CENTERS: It didn't matter in this wide-margin victory, but when Al Jefferson shoots 11 of 15 (he's averaging 47 percent this season), he usually ought to get more attempts. The win marked Big Al's best percentage shooting game of the season. His performance is rated even higher given that Charlotte center Bismark Biyombo was scoreless and hardly a factor in 24 minutes. Brendan Haywood (1-of-4 shooting, 6 rebounds) was much the same in equal time. GRADE: A-.
BENCH: Efforts from Hayward and Burks — and certainly Derrick Favors (10 points on 5-of-5 shooting, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) weren't enough to help the Jazz bench match the output from some Bobcat reserves. Utah was outscored 62-39 in this category. A combination of terrific offensive guard play from Ben Gordon (20 points on 8-of-16 shooting, 3 assists), former University of Nevada standout Ramon Sessions (14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, 4 assists in just 19 minutes) and Gerald Henderson (14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, 3 steals), coupled with Warrick's efforts on at least one end of the floor, proved overwhelming at times.
One wonders why Favors, in playing so well, wouldn't be given more than 19-plus minutes in a game the Jazz controlled most of the way. GRADE: C-.
OVERALL: Winning 3 of the past 5 road games truly could prove to be an indicator that the team is improving. (Watch: Now the Jazz will go get torn apart Friday at Atlanta much like they did in Denver after winning the previous night in Phoenix.) With 54 percent shooting from the field and 10 of 22 from distance, the Jazz truly were effective Wednesday regardless of the opponent. How much more lethal would they have been were it not for 17 turnovers? GRADE: B+.
Rhett Wilkinson is a senior in communications and politics at Utah State University and the co-founder of Aggie BluePrint, USU's student magazine. A Deseret News editorial intern, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wilklogan