SALT LAKE CITY — This will probably not come as a major surprise, but Monday’s game marked a season-high for free-throw shooting for the Utah Jazz.
During their bizarre 106-99 win over Sacramento, the Jazz made (35) and attempted (53) quite a few more foul shots than they had in their previous 44 games.
Before Monday, the Jazz’s season-high for free-throw attempts was 39 against New Orleans on Nov. 13. Utah had converted 25 times from the charity stripe three times.
The Jazz almost reached both of those marks in the second half alone thanks to the late-game strategy Kings coach Mike Malone employed after falling behind by 20 points. Utah was 21 for 35 on free throws after halftime and 12 of 25 from the stripe in the 40-minute fourth quarter.
“It took too long,” Jazz center Derrick Favors said about the ending of Monday’s game.
Favors and the Jazz starters sat on the bench down the stretch as the Kings tried to overcome the huge late deficit by sending the likes of Rudy Gobert, Jeremy Evans, John Lucas III, Enes Kanter and Diante Garrett to the line. Those guys allowed Sacramento to get within five points with a half-minute remaining while going a combined 9 for 20 in the last three minutes.
“It’s a strategy that teams use,” Favors said. “I guess sometimes you’ve just got to use it.”
The Kings also used the ploy — and effectively so — when they beat the Jazz in Utah back in December. Center Andris Biedrins was fouled on three consecutive possessions in the first half, and Malone’s former player only hit 1 of 6 free throws that night.
Without top two scorers DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay for the entire game because of injuries and missing the ill Isaiah Thomas for the final 12 minutes, the Kings coach was forced to take a drastic measure to try to give his team a chance to win.
“We always try to identify certain guys from the other team that may be poor free-throw shooters,” said Malone, who named and first targeted Gobert, a 43.6 percent free-throw shooter. “Andris Biedrins (16.7 percent free-throw shooter this season), we used the first time we played these guys and it was effective. It slows the game down, it stops the clock, and it gives us extra possessions.”
The Jazz’s lead evaporated from 17 with 4 1/2 minutes remaining to five with 31 seconds left.
“We went from being completely out of the game,” Malone said, “to making it interesting and forcing them to call a couple timeouts.”
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin decided to leave his subs in instead of bringing the starters back.
“I just told the guys, ‘You can’t take anything for granted in this league when there’s time on the clock. You’ve got to handle your business,’” Corbin said. “(We) missed some free throws, giving them second shots, and they hung around a little longer.”
Rookie Trey Burke, a 90.6 percent foul shooter, said he tried to do what he could from the sideline. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter as the Jazz maintained a double-digit lead for almost 10 minutes.
“Me on the bench, I’m thinking, ‘What can I do to help the team right now?’” Burke said. “I was just trying to continue to encourage guys. I don’t know if (Corbin) was going to put me back in at the end of the game. Guys that were already out there seemed like they were getting the job done.”
TRIPLE-DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Monday was the fourth time this season the Jazz have had three players contribute double-double performances in the same game.
Derrick Favors led the Jazz with 17 points and 12 rebounds, Marvin Williams poured in 16 points and a season-high 11 boards, and Jeremy Evans tallied 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
Favors, who’s averaging 13.5 points and 9.3 rebounds, leads the Jazz with 15 double-doubles.
WATCH AND LEARN: Newcomer Malcolm Thomas was claimed off waivers from the Spurs on Saturday, practiced for the first time with the Jazz on Sunday and then attended his first game as a member of the organization Monday.
The Jazz have a full roster of 15 players but can only dress 13 per NBA rules, so the 6-9 power forward and rookie Ian Clark sat behind the bench during the win.
“It’s a lot for him to learn on the fly, but we’ll try to get him engrained here,” Corbin said. “The fortunate thing is we don’t have to get him on the floor just yet.”
Thomas hopes to catch up quickly, but he admitted he’s “not familiar at all” with the Jazz system.
“It’s going to take time for me to get used to it. The coaches are trying to help me now to learn a couple of plays now,” the former San Diego State player said. “I got a DVD, watched a few plays on it. There’s a lot of stuff I’ve got to learn.”
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