Utah Jazz notebook: Earl Watson starts, Alec Burks finishes at point guard in loss to Boston
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — After some sluggish starts recently, including Saturday night’s loss to the Clippers when they fell behind by 11 midway through the first quarter, the Jazz decided enough was enough.
A change in the starting lineup was in order, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin determined.
So Earl Watson was given his first start of the season at point guard in place of Jamaal Tinsley, despite Watson only scoring eight points on 3-of-13 shooting in his previous three games.
"Hopefully, with Earl in there, he should give us more pace pushing the ball down the floor," Corbin said before the game. "We've got to find a way to get some easy baskets with that first group. Hopefully, this will be a way to get it."
Watson provided some early energy for the Jazz, who jumped out to an early four-point lead and played the Celtics pretty even in the early going. However on the night, Watson played just 21 minutes, scoring two points and finishing with two assists and four turnovers.
Second-year guard Alec Burks got the majority of the point guard minutes as he ended up playing the final 21:24 of the game as Watson never left the bench.
Burks finished with eight points, five rebounds, three assists and three turnovers.
Corbin explained why he didn’t start Burks over Watson and Tinsley.
"He's such a young guy and it's not his natural position," Corbin said. "I like to keep that second group together the way they're playing. We can share the ballhandling duties."
RIVERS’ 'MAN CRUSH': When asked before the game about Utah’s young players, Boston coach Doc Rivers couldn’t say enough good things about Gordon Hayward, talking about an apparent “man crush” on the young forward.
“Hayward’s the guy that stands out to me,’’ he said. “Hayward’s been one of my favorites for a while. My staff laughs that I have a man crush on him. I just like the way he plays. He’s a rugged kid with skills and high IQ and he’s athletic."
Rivers referenced the back-to-back blocked dunks Hayward recorded in a game against the Celtics last year, calling the sequence the “play of the year.’’
“He’s just getting better and better,’’ Rivers said. “He’s got to stay healthy obviously, but he’s a terrific player.’’
After Hayward scored 26 points to lead the Jazz, Rivers was just as effusive.
“That kid is unbelievable," Rivers said. "I don’t think he realizes how good he is.’’
MEMORIES OF RICK: Being back in Utah brought back memories for Rivers about his former college coach at Marquette, Rick Majerus. Rivers was close to Majerus and even went back to Milwaukee to attend his funeral in December on the same day as a Boston game in Philadelphia.
“I was telling my staff I was up here one summer and took my oldest son up to Rick’s camp. ... After about a day I couldn’t take it any more and said ‘My gosh, I’ve subjected my son to the same thing I went through,'" he said with a hearty laugh. “But it was great and obviously the dinners were legendary. I’m really happy Saint Louis is doing well. Rick thought this was a great year for him.’’
AL STILL 0-FER: Al Jefferson was trying to pick up his first victory ever against the team that drafted him in 2004 with the 15th pick. With Monday’s loss, he’s now 0-11 against the Celtics.
Jefferson was traded to Minnesota along with four other players in July 2007 for Kevin Garnett, who teamed with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to win an NBA title in 2007.
Jefferson downplayed his connection to Boston after Monday’s shootaround, but he talked about playing against Garnett, who was traded for Jefferson and four other players in July of 2007.
When asked about a “rivalry” with Garnett, Jefferson said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a rivalry. KG loves to compete. I love to compete. If you don’t stand up for yourself and hit him back, he’s going to be dogging you all night. It’s nothing personal, just basketball.’’
JAZZ NOTES: Boston general manager Danny Ainge was on hand for the game and was all smiles afterward. ... Both teams shot 11 of 21 for 52.4 percent in the first quarter. For the game, the Celtics shot 47.7 percent and the Jazz were 44.3 percent. ... Randy Foye played just 16 minutes and went 2 of 6 from 3-point range. ... After reaching double figures only once and averaging just 4.8 points in the last eight games, Marvin Williams scored 15 point Monday. ... The Jazz face Atlanta on Wednesday and Charlotte on Friday — both at home.
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