CHARLOTTE — The Jazz returned to the .500 mark with a 99-93 win over Charlotte (5-32) Wednesday night, matching their scoring average from their last five meetings with the Bobcats. Utah (19-19) was led by 31 points from Al Jefferson as the Jazz outrebounded the Bobcats 43-34 and won consecutive road games for the second time this season.
Guards: Devin Harris returned from his injury in Cleveland to score nine points — less than half of what he has averaged in his last five games against Charlotte — and dish four assists. This time, Harris and Earl Watson — along with Raja Bell — didn't let an opposing guard have a big offensive night, as starters D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson combined for 16 points. Rookie Kemba Walker argues the case, as he scored 19 points, more than six above his average. GRADE: B
Forwards: Josh Howard and Paul Millsap combined for 28 points and five steals, while Gordon Hayward filled the box score with eight points, six rebounds and four assists, though he shot 3-of-9 and committed a few turnovers. Jazz forwards did have a difficult time slowing Corey Maggette, who scored 25 points and earned 14 trips to the free-throw line. Then again, neither Orlando or New Jersey slowed him much either: the swingman has scored 78 points in the last three contests. GRADE: B+
Centers: Just a game removed from setting a career-high in assists (seven), Al Jefferson registered five dimes to complement his 31 points and nine rebounds. He clearly shined over Bismack Biyombo, who scored just two points and fouled out trying to keep up with the Mississippi native. It's a good thing Jefferson dominated since Enes Kanter was hardly a factor in 15 minutes. GRADE: A-
Bench: The Utah bench was outscored 48-27 as Walker and center Byron Mullens combined for 35 points on 15-of-27 shooting. Derrick Favors shined for the Jazz, scoring 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 18 minutes. It marked Favors' second double-figure scoring night in three games after going seven consecutive games without reaching the mark. On the other hand, C.J. Miles went scoreless after reaching double figures in four consecutive contests. The bench shot 12-of-32 while the starters went 27-of-55. Grade: C-
Overall: Any small steps are important for this team, so winning their second consecutive game on the road for the first time in nearly two months is noteworthy, despite the poor competition. Utah shouldn't have a problem making a playoff push if Jefferson continues to play like he has in the past two games while seemingly trying to shed his "black hole" label. However, he needs to demonstrate such play against the best of the Western Conference big men as he continues to assert himself as one of the NBA's premier big men. Grade: B-
Rhett Wilkinson is a journalism and speech communications major at Utah State University. He has previously been an intern for the Deseret News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Twitter: wilklogan
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