OAKLAND, Calif. — Overnight, Jamaal Tinsley went from being a rarely used bench player — the guy with the fewest minutes on the team, in fact — to the Utah Jazz's starting point guard.
That scenario was almost as surprising as Tinsley going from being a D-League player — the league's No. 1 pick of 2011, in fact — to earning a spot on the Jazz roster as the emergency backup playmaker.
But there Tinsley was Thursday, making his first start with the Jazz after a string of injuries left Utah without its top two point guards, Devin Harris (strained left hamstring) and Earl Watson (sprained left ankle).
With only 10 players available — Raja Bell (strained right adductor) stayed in Utah — the outmanned Jazz weren't a match for a seven-win Golden State team, which improved its record to 8-12 with a runaway 119-101 victory at Oracle Arena.
Despite a losing outcome, Tinsley held his own in his first NBA start since being in the opening lineup for the Memphis Grizzlies — get this, against Utah — during the 2009-10 season.
The nine-year NBA vet spread out 13 assists, even becoming the first Jazz player with double-digit dishes this season. The 6-3 guard scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds in a solid 34 minutes.
Tinsley hadn't been afforded many minutes because of Watson's stellar play, but he kept himself ready. He showed up early and stayed late to practice, getting in more shots and extra running. He also actively helped teammates, taking on a leadership role on the bench and in the locker room.
All the while biding his time for some action — something he hadn't had much of this year and didn't get at all in 2010-11 while out of the NBA.
"Just waiting for an opportunity," he said. "There are certain things I can't control, but I always can control me staying ready and being in shape, just waiting for my number to be called and just going out there and play hard for 48 minutes."
Though his was a feel-good story, the backcourt-depleted Jazz struggled to contain the Warriors' dazzling duo of Monta Ellis (33 points) and Steph Curry (29 points, 12 assists).
"They were more aggressive," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We just didn't handle the situations well. They got running (and) … made some open shots and they feed off that."
For almost three quarters, though, the thin Jazz — playing 24 hours after a tough 107-105 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers — were all knotted up with the run-and-gun Warriors.
Ellis and Curry — absent in Utah's one-point win here on Jan. 7 — helped Golden State take control of the game with a dominating end to the third quarter, including a sensational half-court lob-layup play from Curry to Ellis.
That put the Warriors up 85-76, and Ellis burst the Jazz's balloon with a 3-point bucket at the end of the quarter to give the home team a double-digit lead it never relinquished.
While seizing control midway through the second half, Golden State outscored the Jazz by nine points after Tinsley went to the bench and rookie shooting guard Alec Burks was put in at point.
Corbin spoke highly of both fill-in playmakers, though, and blamed the whole team for being outhustled. He was mostly disgusted with how the Warriors were allowed to score 40 points in the third quarter and another 31 in the fourth.
"We got away from executing our offense," Corbin said, "and they got a run."
He'd hoped to avoid the break-neck pace that favors the Warriors.
"They're really dynamic of taking advantage of your turnovers or early shots," Corbin said. "They can get in the open court and they score in bunches. Seventy-one points in the second half is just too many to give any team, especially on the road."
Still, the Jazz stayed in this one longer than many might have expected thanks in part to Tinsley and the hot hand of Gordon Hayward (21 points).
Coming into this one, Tinsley's opportunities and statistical imprints on box scores were few and far between. He'd only appeared in nine of 20 games and for a total of just 45 minutes. He was averaging just 0.4 points and 0.9 assists.
"I thought he did a great job for a guy not playing a lot of minutes for us," Corbin said. "He did a good job pretty much the entire game of executing, getting us in our stuff. He made some great passes, created a good tempo for us."
The rare playing opportunity comes at an opportune time for Tinsley, who is on a nonguaranteed contract with the Jazz. If he stays on the roster after Feb. 10, Tinsley's deal will be extended through the end of the 2011-12 season. Otherwise, he'll become a free agent.
The Jazz haven't announced how long they expect any of their injured guards — Harris, Bell or Watson — to be sidelined. Utah won't practice today but next plays at home Saturday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Keep in mind, the NBA doesn't allow teams to pick up 10-day contracts until Monday.
Josh Howard and Al Jefferson each contributed 19 points in the loss, while Paul Millsap added 15 points.
"They played harder (than) us getting to the loose ball, outhustling us for the most part," said Jefferson of the Jazz who allowed the Warriors to outrebound them 47-43, including 22 offensive boards. "We've got to give them credit. They came to play."
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