SALT LAKE CITY — Not surprisingly, a point guard was among the players with the best performances Wednesday night in the Utah Jazz’s 109-86 blowout of the Phoenix Suns.
It wasn’t Goran Dragic.
The Suns playmaker, having an All-Star-caliber season, didn’t even suit up because of an ankle injury he suffered Tuesday night against Minnesota.
It wasn’t Trey Burke, either.
The Jazz’s Rookie of the Year candidate had a fine but mostly quiet game with 10 points and just two assists.
The point guard du soir in this game: Diante Garrett.
How fitting, he acknowledged, that his career-high scoring night of 15 points came against his old team.
Garrett, who played 19 games in Phoenix last season, thoroughly enjoyed some exchanges he had with players on the Suns bench during this rout.
“Those guys talking smack on the sideline was fun,” he said.
It was even more fun when Garrett hit 6 of 9 shots and 3 of 4 3-pointers, besting his previous career high of 13. The guard from Milwaukee (yes, he knows Wesley Matthews) made sure to look over at his former teammates — from Phoenix and summer league — after some made shots.
“It was just a reaction,” he said, smiling. “I heard them before I even shot it, ‘That’s off! That’s off!’ When it went in, I had to just look at them, like, ‘Yeah, I’ll remember this.’”
Garrett, signed on Nov. 13 out of the D-League to replace waived Jamaal Tinsley, hasn’t put up spectacular numbers in his second NBA season. He’s only averaging 3.4 points, 1.9 assists and 1.5 rebounds in a backup role to Burke.
But Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, who’s remained high on his work ethic and likes Garrett’s 6-4 size, was appreciative of the way Garrett ran the offense during 21 relief minutes Wednesday. The 25-year-old, cut by the Thunder late in the preseason, finished with two boards, two assists and two steals, countering a pair of turnovers, to help the Jazz win the point guard battle in Dragic’s absence.
Ish Smith filled in for the Suns’ standout, contributing 13 points but on 5-of-15 shooting with eight rebounds and five assists.
“(Garrett) did a great job. I thought his minutes were really effective minutes for us,” Corbin said. “He made some shots, but I thought the way he set up the offense and made the right plays for us was really good.”
Burke echoed his coach’s sentiment and complimented Garrett on the other end of the court, too.
“He’s improving every day as well,” Burke said. “We’re going to need for him to come off the bench and give us that spark on the defensive end, knock down open shots, get other guys going. He had a great night tonight.”
Garrett’s teammates teased him from around the locker room as the media formed a deep semicircle around him after his third double-figure scoring game in two partial seasons.
The smiling and chatting Garrett wasn’t fazed: “Going out there, being aggressive and making some plays, it was fun.”