SALT LAKE CITY — Turns out, Tyrone Corbin doesn't like the word "bench" being used when talking about the new reserve roles for Gordon Hayward and Marvin Williams.
While laughing, the Jazz coach made that point clear during Monday's postgame interview at EnergySolutions Arena.
"They're not on the bench," he said, smiling. "We just call it, 'We didn't start them.' "
However it's described, Corbin and the Jazz sure loved what those two players who didn't start accomplished after leaving their reserved seats down the row from him after tipoff of Monday's 102-91 win over the Houston Rockets.
Williams entered only a minute into the contest after Derrick Favors picked up a quick second foul, and scored all 12 of his points in a first-half reversal.
Hayward, meanwhile, led all Jazz scorers with 15 points and played a key role in turning things around for Utah after coming off the area formerly known as the bench.
"They pick up the pace. They give us some versatility in the second group," Corbin said of the guys who became backups in the final game of the Jazz's East Coast swing. "We can put the ball in Gordon's hands more. We give Marvin more touches with the second group."
Hayward and Williams spearheaded an overall solid 48-point night from the substitutes. Also off the, um, pine, Jamaal Tinsley dished out a game-high 11 assists, and Enes Kanter added eight rebounds and six points, including two from an impressive alley-oop hookup with DeMarre Carroll. Utah's subs hit five of the Jazz's nine helpful bombs from 3-point range, too.
The Jazz's cavalry crew played a big role in Utah turning an early 7-0 deficit into a 23-point first-half lead, putting the home team in command for good before halftime.
"Coming off in the second unit, we run a lot," Hayward said. "We got out in the open court and I was able to get a couple more touches and get going, get some pick-and-rolls and different action like that and that kind of kick-started me."
Williams got off to an even quicker non-starting start.
"He got a couple of easy looks in the corner to start the game," Hayward said. "Any time you can get a couple of shots to go down early, it's going to be a good night."
Incidentally, that point might persuade Corbin to change the starting unit again for the Jazz's next game, Friday at home against Sacramento.
Overall, Utah had a strong night, scoring 61 points in the first half on 50 percent shooting, dishing out an impressive 30 assists on 37 made baskets, outrebounding Houston 55-49 and swatting 11 shots.
But again, Corbin's starting crew struggled out of the gate. Utah fell behind by four points when Favors left with his second foul, and the Jazz gave Houston a seven-point head start. And that, after the new crew of Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Paul Millsap, Favors and Al Jefferson allowed Washington to go ahead 15-2 before rallying to a win on Saturday.
That's why Corbin added a "but" after complimenting non-starters Hayward and Williams.
"But we've got to get off to a little better start. I'm not completely sold on the starts that we get with the big group," Corbin said. "Tonight we were down 7-0 and we were down 15-2 to start the ballgame (Saturday). It gives us an advantage on the defensive end, (but) it takes a little while to get that group going. We're going to look at it and see what gives us the best chance going forward."
The starters finished with fairly even offensive numbers, with Big Al and Foye each chipping in 14 points, Millsap adding 10 and Favors and Mo Williams putting in eight apiece.
Jefferson also had 16 rebounds in his eighth double-double, helping to contribute to Utah's 30-19 fast-break advantage.
Despite a quick pace, the Jazz ended up hitting only 40.2 percent from the field after making 50 percent in the first half. But the Rockets were even more woeful on offense as Utah bottled up their pick-and-roll and held Houston to 34.9 percent shooting a night after they dropped a high-scoring game (119-108) to the Lakers in Los Angeles.
"It all starts with defense for us," Hayward said. "Once we get stops, we can push it. When we do that, we've definitely got the athletes and the versatility. We're pretty good when we do that."
The Rockets played most of the game without new star James Harden, who left in the first half with just six points on 1-for-6 shooting after suffering an upper respiratory infection.
Pattrick Patterson led Houston (4-7) with 19 points, while new Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin fell short of his Linsanity billing with just 13 points on 5-for-15 shooting.
The Jazz, winners of two straight and owners of a .500 record of 6-6, will take the win in this rare home game during a road-heavy early schedule.
"It's huge for us, especially coming from a road trip," said Hayward, two nights after the Jazz finished off a 2-2 East Coast trip. "We needed this win and I think it was a confidence booster for us. We can carry this momentum into the next game."
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