The Utah Jazz's play the past two games has made it seem like their back-to-back defeats last week were merely aberrations. Their Feb. 8 and 9 defeats aside, the Jazz have won six out of seven, including a 97-93 win over Minnesota on Wednesday.
GUARDS: While Jamaal Tinsley (three points on 1-of-2 shooting, two assists, two rebounds, one turnover) was mediocre in 16 minutes, backup Earl Watson (six points on 2-of-7 shooting, five assists but four turnovers) was worse in more time (24 minutes). Minnesota point Ricky Rubio (18 points on just 3-of-13 shooting) fortunately shot poorly, but he did turn in 10 assists.
Randy Foye's 2-of-11 outing marked his worst shooting performance since going 1 of 9 in a Dec. 22 defeat at Miami. But the Jazz benefited from Luke Ridnour (18 points) fouling out in 37 minutes. GRADE: D+.
FORWARDS: Good to see the oft-ineffective Marvin Williams play just 15 minutes while DeMarre Carroll (11 points, five rebounds) saw 25 minutes and Derrick Favors 20. Williams didn't necessarily make it easy for coach Tyrone Corbin, however, with seven rebounds. Minnesota small forward Mickael Gelabale only put up twos (two points, two rebounds and two fouls) in 24 minutes.
Carroll should continue to see that amount of time if he is going to play effectively — and he has in recent outings. He is proving to be pivotal to Utah's success.
Paul Millsap (21 points on 7-of-15 shooting) and Derrick Williams (24 points on 7-of-17 shooting) essentially canceled each other out offensively — a compliment to Williams' play given that he averages just nine points per game. Williams wins this head-to-head since he grabbed 16 rebounds. GRADE: C.
CENTERS: Al Jefferson (20 points on 9-of-18 shooting, 11 rebounds) gave the Jazz exactly what it needed, especially since a 7-of-16 shooting night from his counterpart (Wolves center Nikola Pekovic) is about as good as you are going to get from Big Al's defense. Enes Kanter (10 points, three rebounds) gave a solid 14 minutes. GRADE: B.
BENCH: The Utah reserves outscored the Minnesota bench by an astounding 43-12 margin — easily the difference in a four-point Jazz victory. While Carroll and Favors (seven points, six rebounds) were solid, Alec Burks (nine points, seven assists, six rebounds, two steals) was the star off the bench and arguably for the evening. He and Carroll are playing a key role in Utah's success as they see ample time. Watson's poor outing is the only blemish on the bench's grade. GRADE: A-.
OVERALL: They may have shot not as effectively as they would have liked (2 of 11 from distance and 43.7 percent overall), but Utah ought to feel splendid for holding the Wolves to 34.1 shooting. The Jazz forced only 10 turnovers but didn't exceed 15 turnovers themselves (they had 14), staying in territory where they usually win. The Jazz ought to use these back-to-back wins over Oklahoma City and Minnesota as models for how to perform in a two-games-in-two-nights stretch involving a road contest. Those factors raise the overall grade a notch. GRADE: B-.
Rhett Wilkinson attends Utah State University, is the co-founder and an editor of Aggie BluePrint, USU's first student magazine, and is currently an LDS Living intern. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter: @wilklogan