SALT LAKE CITY — Leave it to a proud, determined old pro like Earl Watson to show the Utah Jazz how to go in and give a great effort, making the most of a frustrating situation despite no possible chance of winning the game.
Watson came into Wednesday night's game against Oklahoma City in the second half, with the Jazz staring at a discouraging deficit that reached 32 points in the third quarter.
But he showed why he's lasted a dozen years in the NBA by battling his very best every moment he was on the court, refusing to back down against younger and quicker point guards Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson in the Thunder's eventual 110-87 victory.
"He's a pro," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said of Watson. "He's been a pro the whole time he's been here.
"He pushed the ball down the floor; he did a great job of getting the guys in their sets, cutting hard and attacking the rim."
Watson finished with nine points, six assists, two rebounds and a steal in his highly productive and impressive 19 minutes on the floor.
And though his playing time is often much less than that, the veteran point guard doesn't grumble or let himself get too disheartened by his situation.
"I was just coming in and trying to help my team, help them to become better," he said. "And it's all about the play. I love to play the game, so I just took advantage of it.
"That's the hard part," he said of his sometimes scarce opportunities to get on the court, "it is a challenge. But at the same time, the love for the game exceeds being frustrated or the talent, so you just go out there and you love the game. You just fall in love with the game and just play as hard as possible."
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Kendrick Perkins didn't score a single point, and he had more fouls (4) and turnovers (4) than he did rebounds (3), yet Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said the 6-foot-10 center might've been his team's most valuable player for his interior defensive effort in Wednesday night's 110-87 victory over the Jazz.
After all, Jazz big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap were a combined 5-of-18 from the field and had just 15 points and 14 rebounds between them on Wednesday after going off for a combined 41 points and 17 rebounds in Utah's 15-point victory over the Thunder a month ago in Salt Lake City.
"I thought their bigs really did a good job of setting the tone for their team in Utah," Brooks told the Daily Oklahoman newspaper. "And I thought our bigs did a great job (in Wednesday's rematch). Perk if you had to give a game ball, you'd give it to him.
"He was a big impact throughout the game, not only on his man but anchoring our defense and not allowing any easy points in the paint in that first three quarters."
THE HURT LOCKER (ROOM): The Jazz have been plagued by a rash of injuries to key personnel during the past couple of months, and it seems like when one player is healthy enough to come back from an injury, another one goes down.
Starting point guard Mo Williams missed 32 games from late December until early March with a thumb injury that required surgery. And in recent weeks, shooting guard Gordon Hayward sat out 10 games from late January to mid February with a sprained shoulder; Al Jefferson missed three games earlier this month with a sprained ankle, and Paul Millsap missed four of Utah's last eight games with ankle and knee problems.
Point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who started 27 games during Williams' prolonged absence, has missed Utah's last two games due to illness.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin maintains a philosophical approach when it comes to injuries and the need to juggle his team's lineup from time to time.
"It's difficult for us, you know, but that's the NBA," he said. "These guys understand that it's an 82-game season, so you're gonna have guys in and out of the lineup, and the guys have been tremendous all year about stepping up and making adjustments quickly.
"We've struggled a little bit of late with guys in and out (of the lineup), trying to work Mo back in and get his rhythm. It's a long season, a lot of ups and downs, and as long as we stay together and continue to work together, we'll be fine," Corbin said.
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