Utah Jazz: Surging Jazz beat Warriors 115-101 in what could be the team's last game together
SALT LAKE CITY — If Tyrone Corbin held the position of general manager for the Utah Jazz instead of head coach, the team probably wouldn't look any different Friday morning than it did Tuesday night.
The exception being the outcast Raja Bell, of course.
Other than Utah's version of "He Who Must Not Be Named" and getting starting point guard Mo Williams back and healthy, Corbin wouldn’t change a thing about his squad leading up to Thursday's NBA trade deadline.
"I love everybody on this team. I love what these guys bring. I love how they've stayed focused and try and get better," Corbin said.
"We understand the business. There are opportunities that you have to take advantage of if they present themselves, but the guys have been tremendous. These are Utah Jazz kind of guys from one to 14 that we have on this team."
By the way, Corbin gave that glowing endorsement an hour before the Jazz took it to the Golden State Warriors in a well-played 115-101 victory Tuesday at EnergySolutions Arena.
Center Al Jefferson made himself even more attractive to potential trade suitors and further endeared himself to Jazz brass and fans with his outing against the Warriors.
Big Al hit 11 of 18 shots and scored 24 points, leading seven Jazz players in double-figure scoring. Utah shot 50 percent and never trailed against the Warriors, who had a 29-point game from Stephen Curry but still lost their sixth straight.
"It's going real good. We've just got to keep it going," Jefferson said. "The offense is real good, but I think the defense is really where it's picking up at. We helping each other, getting stops, rebounding. It's going to take a team effort for us to win."
Speaking of which, this game featured a bit of everything good the injury-riddled team that's won 12 of 17 has to offer.
Gordon Hayward had a strong outing in his triumphant return from a 10-game absence, scoring 17 points with dunks and two 3-pointers after a long-distance air ball.
Hayward, who also had four assists, three rebounds and two blocked shots, even took a hard welcome-back foul by Andris Biedrins in stride shortly after entering the game to a thunderous ovation by the crowd of 18,231.
"It's tremendous to play in front of these fans," Hayward said after his first game since spraining his right shoulder against Indiana on Jan. 26.
Along with Hayward's versatile night, the multifaceted Jazz had strong inside showings from Derrick Favors (14 points) and Paul Millsap (14 points, nine rebounds) and solid outside outings by Randy Foye (15 points), Alec Burks (13 points) and Marvin Williams (11 points).
It's almost as if the players dared management to keep the group together to finish off the end of the season. Utah has even pulled to within three games of No. 5 seed Denver (34-21).
Corbin has the utmost respect and confidence in the Jazz's personnel decision-makers — Dennis Lindsey, Kevin O'Connor et al — but he's keeping his fingers crossed that guys named Jefferson, Millsap, etc. remain on the roster.
"I hope all the time," Corbin said when asked if he'd like to see the squad stay together. "I appreciate what they do for us. We all understand the business, but it's been a great group of guys to work with and we look forward to continue to work with them."
That could change between now and Thursday afternoon's deadline.
Until then, the Jazz — except for Bell — will get together as currently assembled for practice this morning to begin preparing for Saturday's road game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
"This is who we are. We are who we are until something changes," Corbin added. "The guys are responding very well. I really appreciate how they've all handled the situation and we'll expect it to continue."
But, c'mon, that's gotta be hard considering the uncertainty, right?
"It's my job," Jefferson said, reminding reporters he's been involved in many trade rumors in his nine-year career.
"For me, as far as focus, I'm just going to continue to stay focused," he added, "and just do my job, and that's to help lead this team."
NOTES: Foye has hit a 3-pointer in 22 consecutive games for the Jazz. He hit 3 of 6 deep shots Tuesday, marking the 21st time he's had three or more treys in a game this season. Utah hadn't had seven guys hit double digits in scoring since eight players scored 10 or more in a blowout win over Toronto on Dec. 7. Utah maintained a lead throughout the entire game for just the third time in 55 games this season.
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