Utah Jazz: Jazz get big bounce-back win over the Hornets
SALT LAKE CITY — At one point late in the fourth quarter, DeMarre Carroll pumped his fist while the crowd cheered at EnergySolutions Arena.
The visual display of excitement wasn't for a Utah Jazz win or for his most impressive alley-oop lob pass.
Those came at other points Friday night.
This particular Carroll celebratory gesture happened, rather, after he'd helped force New Orleans into turning the ball over after the game was put out of reach by the playoff-hungry home team.
Moments later, streams of confetti poured from the ceiling and 18,023 fans joined in the celebration after the Jazz beat the Hornets 95-83 to remain in a tight fight for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Carroll's effort and enthusiasm were just one of several storylines in this must-win game for the Jazz, who improved to 40-37 to stay one-half game behind the also-victorious Lakers (40-36).
Most notably, this was a bounce-back game for the Jazz.
Not only did they rebound from Wednesday's rough 17-point home loss to Denver, but they also overcame a sluggish start and early seven-point hole against the 26-50 Hornets.
"It was good," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "We needed to bounce back from Wednesday night, and we did. Now we just gotta focus on Golden State and get ready for the road."
The bench, including Carroll, saved the starters' bacon in the first half, helping Utah dig out of a 20-13 first-quarter deficit to take control of the contest.
Gordon Hayward shook out of a first-half funk to score 20 of his team-high 23 points in the second half. His was the latest Jazz hand to get hot as he hit five 3-pointers, including one during a game-clinching 11-2 run at the beginning of the fourth quarter when Utah turned a shaky four-point lead into a safer 82-69 advantage.
Paul Millsap again flirted with a triple-double, scoring 20 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out seven assists.
Derrick Favors played a big role off the bench, contributing 10 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high six blocked shots.
Jefferson scored 12 of his 14 points in the pivotal second half when the Jazz outscored the Hornets 50-40.
Before leaving with injuries, Alec Burks (sprained left ankle) and Jamaal Tinsley (bruised lower back) also played strong in spurts.
Back to Carroll, the energetic small forward gave a jolt of energy into the lackluster Jazz in the first half by hustling, diving on the floor, scraping and annoying the Hornets while scoring six points with three assists, three rebounds and three steals.
Carroll hadn't played much in recent games because Corbin tightened up his roster into a nine-man rotation. But he got a chance to play for almost 26 minutes while Marvin Williams rested his tendinitis-hampered right heel, and he made the most of his time on the floor.
"It was just another opportunity for me to get out there and do what I do. Unfortunately, it came when Marvin got banged up a little, but it was just an opportunity for me to get out there and do what I do," Carroll said. "That's what I do — come in the game, bring energy, do the hustle things, the little things that are going to get my team going."
That Junkyard Dog style of play was contagious.
"DeMarre Carroll came into the game and infused himself into the game and that was huge for them," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "Our guys competed, but we failed to knock down a shot tonight."
New Orleans only shot 41.6 percent and missed 10 of 12 from 3-point range. The Jazz shot 50.6 percent and hit 11 of 26 from 3-point range, including five treys from Hayward.
"The difference," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said, "was defense, I thought, for the most part."
The Hornets began the game looking like they might pick up their first road win since a Feb. 11 victory in Detroit. The Jazz missed eight straight shots while New Orleans jumped out to a 20-13 lead in the first quarter.
Enter Carroll, Favors, Burks and a new attitude for the Jazz.
Utah quickly caught up to New Orleans early in the second quarter when Tinsley and Carroll hit 3-pointers and Millsap finished off a 9-2 run with a basket.
The teams stayed within reach of each other until the final period when Utah turned its tenuous four-point lead at the end of three quarters into a comfortable 82-69 advantage.
Randy Foye and Hayward both drained 3s in the Jazz's game-saving 11-2 run to begin the fourth quarter.
An exclamation mark was slapped on this victory with just under five minutes remaining when Carroll fed Hayward a sweet alley-oop toss for a crowd-pleasing dunk.
That was one of eight makes on 10 field goal attempts in the second half for Hayward.
"In the first half, they just weren't falling," Hayward said. "But teammates and coaches told me to keep shooting and so that's what I did and I was able to get some more looks to go in the second."
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