It’s exciting for us to finally get off that losing streak. We’ve still got a long ways to go, but it’s good to finally have a win in that column. —Gordon Hayward
SALT LAKE CITY — Something weird happened Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
Some weird things, actually.
For one peculiar thing, it was mighty strange how a guy named Diante Garrett played the entire fourth quarter for the Utah Jazz.
More odd things included 16,717 fans cheering, one team celebrating for the first time, and an awful losing streak ending.
Two weeks into the 2013-14 season, the Jazz picked up their first win with a 111-105 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.
It took rallying out of a 16-point hole, but Utah became the final NBA team to earn a W.
“It’s about time,” Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hawyard said. “It’s exciting for us to finally get off that losing streak. We’ve still got a long ways to go, but it’s good to finally have a win in that column.”
That might come as bad news for masochist fans who were hoping for an 0-82 tank job and the best shot at drafting Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins or one of the other enticing potential stars in the 2014 NBA draft.
But this Jazz team needed a positive result after getting off to the worst start since moving to Utah from Louisiana, and especially following six double-digit blowout losses in a row.
“I feel a lot better. We should. I feel great for these guys,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We’ve been through a lot of struggles, but there’s no quit in them.”
That fight, which has been missing much of this season, was needed after the Jazz fell behind by 16 points in the second half.
For a change, someone lit a fire under Utah’s offense and the team ignited instead of imploding.
“We put our heart on the game today,” Jazz center Enes Kanter said. “It feels good.”
Three Jazz players scored 20 or more, with Hayward leading the way with 27 points and 10 assists. The shooting guard had 22 points with three 3s in the come-from-behind second half.
Richard Jefferson scored 22 points; Kanter had a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double; Derrick Favors contributed 12 points, 12 boards and a career-high five steals; and Marvin Williams totaled 12 points and nine rebounds.
“It was big to be 0-8 (and) for the team to rally. No one really lost their confidence. Guys didn’t really get too down,” said Williams, who put the Jazz up for good with a putback bucket and 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been working hard in practice, working hard during shootarounds. Everybody’s been staying positive. When you have that type of attitude, good things happen to you and I think that’s what happened tonight.”
This was by far the Jazz’s best game of the season on the offensive end, which isn’t necessarily saying much considering Utah averaged only 86.9 points on 40.1 percent shooting in its first eight losses.
On this night, the offense clicked better than it has since Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap were in Jazz uniforms.
Utah, the worst scoring and shooting team in the NBA, shot a sizzling 50.4 percent from the field and hit 9 for 22 from 3-point range.
The Jazz were really on fire after falling behind by 16 points early in the third quarter, shooting 61.8 percent and scored 66 points in the second half.
“The biggest thing, I think, is we finally made shots as a team,” Williams said. “We hadn’t been shooting the ball very well as a team this season, so for us to kind of get in the groove and all of us click at the same time it really is a good feeling because it shows what we’re capable of doing.”
It was quite the coincidence that Utah beat New Orleans, considering the Jazz looked like they might begin the season with the worst record since the organization’s inaugural squad in 1974 started 0-11 in the Big Easy.
It looked like an 0-9 start might be in the works after Anthony Davis-led New Orleans took a 61-45 lead early in the third quarter. Davis finished with game highs of 29 points and 15 rebounds.
Corbin called a quick timeout just one minute and 24 seconds into the half after the Pelicans scored the first six points out of the locker room, and things turned around after that.
Jefferson was one big reason why. The veteran small forward scored nine of his season-best 22 points in the third quarter, and Utah eventually tied the Pelicans at 70-70 thanks to a 10-0 run.
“I’ve got a little bit left in the tank,” the 13-year veteran Jefferson said. “And I can’t thank Coach Corbin enough for sticking with me.”
Corbin did make one big lineup move, benching point guard John Lucas III in the second half after the struggling starter went 0 for 7 in the first half, including 0 for 6 from 3-point range.
Alec Burks started at point in the second half, but the big story for that position was the play of Garrett. Hours after signing with the Jazz from the Iowa Energy of the D-League, the 25-year-old scored seven points, dished out five assists and played the entire fourth quarter. Garrett, who played 19 games for the Phoenix Suns last year, had four turnovers but made some key plays throughout his energetic 22-minute debut.
“I thought Diante Garrett did a tremendous job,” Hayward said. “First game coming in, he really led us there towards the end of the game.”
Weird? Sure. But the Jazz will take whatever they can get this season.