SALT LAKE CITY — After a lot of road games in the month of December, the Utah Jazz started a home-heavy spell with a rematch versus the Charlotte Bobcats, and if Monday was any indicator, the safe confines of EnergySolutions Arena might be the best way for the Jazz to kick off the New Year.
Utah did enough down the stretch to escape with an 83-80 victory in the low-scoring, grind-it-out game.
After trailing most of the game, the Bobcats made a nice run in the fourth quarter and took a 77-76 advantage on a Kemba Walker layup with 1:15 left. Utah's Gordon Hayward made a clutch play, driving it in and dishing the ball to a wide open Derrick Favors for the dunk, and Trey Burke followed that up with a layup to seal the game.
The Jazz are now 9-10 after opening the season with a dismal 1-10 record.
Defensive effort: While the outing lacked a lot of luster in the scoring department, the Jazz displayed a nice defensive effort. They were active from the start in blocking four shots in the first five minutes. Utah effectively packed the interior, forcing the Bobcats to shoot 23-for-70 from inside the 3-point arc (32.9 percent). Charlotte managed to hit 7-of-14 from long distance. None of the Bobcats starters shot 50 percent.
The Jazz concluded the evening with nine blocked shots, led by Favors’ three.
Big Al’s return: Al Jefferson manned the middle for the Utah Jazz the past season, and his first visit to Salt Lake City in a Bobcats uniform was probably not what he envisioned. While he finished with 18 points and a team-high 10 rebounds, his shot was uncharacteristically off. He hit just 8-of-23 shots, while missing a number of shots he routinely makes.
He was active in picking up three steals and two blocked shots. Jefferson also hit a half-court heave at the buzzer for his first 3-pointer of the season.
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-- Marvin Williams, whose play has been integral to Utah’s recent success, had his first double-double of the year with 13 points and a season-high 10 caroms.
-- Diante Garrett got the nod as Burke’s backup at point guard. John Lucas III did not play.
-- Charlotte’s Kemba Walker was almost right at his season averages with 18 points, four assists and six rebounds. His play has him in contention for an Eastern Conference All-Star spot.
-- Monday was not a night for bench scoring where Utah edged Charlotte 18-17.
-- Center Andris Biedrins has not played in nine of the past 10 games. He logged just two minutes in his lone appearance during that span.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.