The Jazz did just enough right to overcome a 3-of-17 effort from distance in a 103-102 nail-biter against Sacramento. Utah (25-22) was led with 26 points from Al Jefferson, while Tyreke Evans scored 25 to lead the Kings (17-30).
Guards: Devin Harris and Gordon Hayward combined for 32 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds from the starting backcourt. Hayward has scored in double figures in five of his last six games, something Utah desperately needs in the wake of Josh Howard's season-ending surgery and as Raja Bell struggles to routinely stay on the floor. Harris was smooth in delivering six assists and just one turnover. Utah didn't quite keep down all the guards defensively: Sacramento's Marcus Thornton shot 7-of-18, but Tyreke Evans scored 25 on 11-of-17 shooting off the bench. GRADE: B
Forwards: C.J. Miles gave 30 less-than-convincing minutes that he should be a starter, shooting just 1-of-8. Paul Millsap was solid, though his four turnovers made things uneasy. His one steal didn't quite match the eight he had on Thursday and the five from Sunday. Utah needed John Salmons to be a non-factor since Jason Thompson scored 19 points, nearly 11 above his average. Millsap picked up four fouls and was limited to 26 minutes trying to slow him down. Derrick Favors addressed some of the issues with another double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) in just 22 minutes. GRADE: C
Centers: Difficult to criticize a guy who had 26 points (on 13-of-19 shooting), made four blocks and scored the game-winner while holding his opponent, DeMarcus Cousins, to a 9-of-28 effort. Al Jefferson was great in his second game back with the Jazz since spending time with his family during the weekend of his grandmother's funeral. Jefferson had previously scored 18 or less points in five of his previous six contests. Enes Kanter had some of the quietest 12 minutes of his young Jazz career. GRADE: B+
Bench: The Sacramento bench edged the Jazz reserves 35-32 due to Evans' big night. The Jazz bench was outscored for the second straight game. Ex-BYU phenom Jimmer Fredette scored six points on 2-of-6 shooting in eight minutes. Aside from Favors, no Jazz reserve was overwhelmingly impressive, as Jamaal Tinsley and Alec Burks each shot 3-10. However, each somewhat made up for it: Tinsley notched eight assists while Burks grabbed six rebounds. GRADE: C+
Overall: Utah has demonstrated finer performances -- they were fortunate that the Kings shot just 12-21 from the charity stripe -- but it's unwise to complain about a road victory for a team that is still 7-16 away from EnergySolutions Arena. A loss would have been demoralizing to a largely young team that had control of most of the game. Mark this win as a big one in the momentum-swing department. What a difference a putback might make. 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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