MIAMI — If the Utah Jazz always got performances from their reserves like they did Monday in Miami, they’d certainly have more than six wins on the season.
Well, unless their starters always played like they did against the Heat in the 117-94 loss.
Without a career night from Alec Burks and a slump-busting outing by Enes Kanter, the Jazz might have lost to the NBA champs by more than 23 points.
Those reserves combined for more points than the entire starting five, with Burks hitting 12 of 17 shots for a career-high 31 points and Kanter having his best night in some time with 14 points.
Starting center Derrick Favors had a solid game with 17 points and seven rebounds, but the other four in that first unit struggled big-time.
“We need our bench,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “I thought our bench held us in there in that first half.”
Sparked by Burks and Kanter, Utah held a 50-47 lead at halftime. The Heat took over in the second half and easily won, but the Jazz took some solace in the play of their strongest subs.
“The first half we just showed that we can compete with everybody,” Kanter said. “The second half, we just had turnovers and they just had fast-break points, really hurt us. We just have to be more aggressive in the second half.”
And the Jazz could use more aggressive games like Burks (seven assists and four steals) and Kanter (eight rebounds) had all the time.
“That first half, I thought (Burks) and Enes really did a good job of carrying the load for us offensively,” Corbin said. “I think (Burks) is really in a good groove of (doing) what we’re looking for from him.”
Corbin was happy to see Kanter play well after the 6-11 big man had shot just 1 for 11 in the previous two games, including a scoreless outing at Denver. This was Kanter’s first double-digit scoring night since he had 19 points on Dec. 9 against Portland. He’s only scored 10-plus four times in the Jazz’s last 12 games.
“He was coming out of it a little bit tonight,” Corbin said. “I thought he did a good job in the first half, and we’ll build on that.”
Corbin has pointed out that the 21-year-old Kanter is still young and reminded reporters that he was out for six months before training camp after shoulder surgery.
Kanter began the season as the Jazz’s starting center, but he was moved to a reserve role when Marvin Williams returned from his heel injury. Williams took over as the starting power forward and Favors moved over to center, but Kanter hasn’t found a consistent flow since then.
Games like Monday can only help.
“Coach gives me the confidence and also my teammates, and I appreciate them,” Kanter said. “My coach is always talking to me or assistant coaches and my teammates (saying), ‘Stay ready.’ It don’t matter if you’re coming from the bench or starting, just always stay ready and in the end you‘re just playing for the Jazz.”
NO SILVER LINING: Burks admitted the outcome spoiled his career night. His previous best offensive output was 26 points against Sacramento on Feb. 9, 2012. The most Burks had scored this season was 24 against Oklahoma City on opening night.
“We lost,” the 6-6 shooting guard said. “I could have had 50 and if we lost still, it really don’t matter.”
His coach was impressed, though. Heck, the Heat even threw LeBron James on Burks there for a while to try to slow him down. At one point in the second half, Burks scored 14 consecutive points for the Jazz.
“I really like the way that he played with a lot of energy and attacking the guys on the strong side and the weak side also,” Corbin said.
“If he just keeps being aggressive like that he’s going to be unbelievable,” Kanter said. “He just keeps going at guys. They just can’t stop him. I think he has to be aggressive like that.”
BACK AT YA: Burks returned the compliment to Kanter.
“Everybody knows Enes is good. He had a couple of rough games, but he’s back,” Burks said, adding that he never lost confidence in his fellow third-year player. “Enes is a good player. He’s got his head on straight, so I knew he was going to back right.”
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