SALT LAKE CITY — In a game the Utah Jazz absolutely, positively had to have in the win column by Friday night, things didn't look good.
Their starters were struggling badly, settling for jump shots that continually clanged off the rim, allowing the lowly New Orleans Hornets to move out to a 24-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.
No, it didn't look good at all, and disaster loomed in Utah's quest to keep pace with the Los Angeles Lakers in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
Enter Utah reserves Derrick Favors, DeMarre Carroll, Alec Burks and Jamaal Tinsley, who joined starter Paul Millsap on the floor in the second quarter.
Suddenly, the sluggish, sputtering Jazz came to life.
Millsap scored eight points in a span of little more than four minutes. Tinsley, Carroll and Burks each hit 3-point bombs in a game-changing 17-4 run — the only buckets of the game for Tinsley and Burks. And Favors contributed five rebounds and four blocked shots in the second quarter alone as the Jazz turned that seven-point deficit into a six-point lead. They never trailed again.
Starters Gordon Hayward, Al Jefferson and Randy Foye — who scored a scant five points between them in the entire first half — combined for 40 after intermission as Utah prevailed with a vital 95-83 victory.
"Our guys, we've been doing that all year, man, just trying to find whatever combination we need against different teams to have a chance to win," Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin said of that makeshift second-quarter lineup that turned the game in Utah's favor. "And the guys just responded.
"I thought our defense got more aggressive and the result was we were able to get some transition baskets. We made shots. We got in our offense a little bit quicker. And we came off a little crisper and were able to get some balls to go in the basket. And we took it from there."
Millsap had 13 of his 20 points in the second period, and he also finished the night with 10 rebounds and seven assists. Hayward had a team-leading 23 points — 20 in the second half — and Favors wound up with a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double and tied his career high with six blocked shots. Tinsley also finished with seven assists.
"I thought Derrick was tremendous in there, even though he had four fouls (entering the fourth quarter), of clogging up the middle," Corbin said. "He got his hands on a lot of balls. He had six blocked shots in the game and was a huge presence for us inside."
Carroll, whose high-energy effort off the bench has been a strength all season long, wound up with six points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals. He got nearly 26 minutes of playing time in the absence of Marvin Williams, who sat out Friday night's game with a sore heel.
"It was just another opportunity for me to get out there and do what I do," said Carroll, a 6-foot-8 reserve forward. "Unfortunately, it came when Marvin got banged up a little bit, but it was just an opportunity to get out there and do what I do.
"That's what I do — come in the game, bring energy, do the hustle things, the little things, the junkyard dog things that are going to get my team going. I've been doing it all year, and I just had another opportunity open up and I just tried to take advantage of it."
Indeed, it was Utah's bench brigade that turned the tide in this one, vaulting the Jazz back into the game until the starters could regroup and get things together in the second half. "The second unit really helped us out and got us where we needed to be," said Jefferson, who had just two points at halftime but wound up with 14 to go along with five rebounds and three steals. "... It was just a good team win."
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