Utah Jazz: Major shakeup in Jazz starting lineup tonight
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
CLEVELAND — The Utah Jazz will look like a completely different team when they start tonight's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now it remains to be seen if their play is different, too.
Sparked by the return of Mo Williams, Al Jefferson's injury and Marvin Williams' struggles, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin made a major change to the team's first five.
For the first time after missing the past 32 games with a right thumb injury that required surgery, Mo Williams will return to the starting lineup for Utah.
Energetic small forward DeMarre Carroll will also start for the eighth time this season, and Derrick Favors will take Big Al's spot at center after his strong three-quarter outing in Monday's 109-108 overtime loss at Milwaukee.
The Jazz's starting lineup, the team's 12th different first five of the year, includes Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Carroll, Paul Millsap and Favors.
Corbin said he put Carroll into the starting group for "energy" purposes.
"We're looking forward to getting some early, easy baskets with Mo coming back," Corbin said. "We want to get somebody running the floor a little more, get some early opportunities."
The Jazz were 14-14 when Williams hurt his thumb in Miami on Dec. 22. Since then, Utah has improved its record to four games above .500 by going 18-14 with Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson and Alec Burks sharing point guard duties.
"It shows the depth of our team," Watson said. "It shows how powerful we can be. Everyone's roles go back to normal. I think it will make us that (much) better and that much more of a threat."
Tinsley, by the way, is back with the team tonight after missing Monday's game to attend a funeral.
Corbin is looking forward to having Williams, his team's leader and top point guard, back in action. Williams was averaging 12.9 points, 6.7 assists and 2.0 rebounds before getting sidelined.
"I'm excited to have him back," Corbin said. "It's going to take a little adjusting. He's been out such a long time, so we'll have to adjust to him again. The guys will have to adjust. The team has changed a lot since he played at the beginning of the year."
Watson, who's started the past four games after Tinsley was struggling, is also happy to have Williams back in the rotation.
"I think it's big," Watson said. "I don't think anyone (in this playoff race) could afford to lose their point guard and still be in the race. Our team did a great job of still staying in and people always talk about how either we're sliding or we're barely gaining momentum.
"But," he added, "we don’t have our full team. No one gives us credit for that. It's going to be a positive to see everyone come back and be healthy going down the stretch."
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