All eyes usually focus on Deron Williams and Chris Paul when they meet.
But breakout games from reserve guards Ronnie Price and Jason Hart made the difference in the latest matchup between young point guards.
It started with the pair diving for a loose ball during the second-quarter rally where Utah took the lead for good, and the Jazz cruised past the New Orleans Hornets 99-71 Friday night.
"That play when Jason Hart and Ronnie Price went after the ball at the end of the first half, I think it really ignited us," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "There were a lot of people that played well, but those two guys made a huge difference in the ballgame."
Price scored 12 points and Hart had 11 to help the Jazz recover from a lethargic first half and dominate the Hornets. Carlos Boozer added 19 points and 16 rebounds in Utah's sixth consecutive home victory.
"If my name is called, I have to be ready. No matter what the circumstances, I need to be ready," said Price, who had played only 37 minutes this season but replaced Gordan Giricek at the 2 guard while Hart filled in when Williams went out with early foul trouble.
The Hornets were ahead for much of the first half, but Price powered a 10-2 run to finish the second quarter and stake the Jazz to a 44-43 lead at halftime. He and Hart dove on the floor to keep a ball alive that ended up in Andrei Kirilenko's hands for a dunk seconds before the buzzer.
"The biggest key to the game tonight was their bench. They really did a great job defending us and we couldn't score," Paul said.
The Jazz then scored the first eight points of the third quarter. Kirilenko's tip-in made it 52-43 and the Jazz cruised from there.
Ronnie Brewer had 13 points, while Williams and Mehmet Okur scored 12 for the Jazz, who haven't lost here since the home opener against Houston.
After Melvin Ely's dunk and Paul's running jumper sliced the lead to 75-64 to finish the third quarter, the Hornets missed their first 13 shots of the fourth. Julian Wright finally ended the drought with a dunk with 3:55 to play.
By that time, the Jazz had gone on a 13-1 run and led 88-65 on Williams' drive to the basket.
The Hornets, who rely on perimeter shooting after drives and kickout passes, were just 1-of-17 on 3-pointers against Utah's scrambling defense. Overall, the Hornets shot a season-low 32.9 percent in their largest margin of defeat this season.
"If you're not making shots from the outside, then they aren't going to give you anything on the interior. They are just too relentless," said David West, who had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Hornets.
Paul had 15 points and six assists, and Tyson Chandler added 12 points but the Hornets, whose entire lineup averages double figures, had no other player score more than six points.
The Hornets had their best start in franchise history at 9-2, but have since dropped three in a row after back-to-back home losses to Orlando and Indiana earlier this week.
Because Williams and Paul were the first two point guards selected in the 2005 NBA draft, they usually command center attention in these matchups.
But Williams, who is recovering from minor surgery on his foot, got in early foul trouble and Paul had trouble navigating Utah's physical defense. That opened the door for Utah s lesser-known guards to steal the show.
"Hart and Ronnie Price are scorers. They've scored a lot their whole lives so we re used to it. They just haven't had a chance to do it in a game this season," Boozer said.
Both Price and Hart scored season highs and the Jazz offense didn't endure its typical letdown when Williams left the floor. Behind the pair's long-range shooting, the Jazz went 8-of-14 from behind the 3-point arc.
"Tonight was a great night for these two guys and that is very encouraging for our team because whenever Deron's been off the floor, we've struggled a little bit," Sloan said. "But Jason Hart is getting more comfortable and obviously Ronnie Price playing the 2 guard was very good for our team."
In their head-to-head battles, Williams has averaged 17 points and six assists, and his team has won six of seven meetings. Paul has averaged 15 points and eight assists.
Notes: The Hornets had won four straight on the road but now are 6-2 away from home. ... Both Kirilenko and West, at different times, had to receive medical attention for scratches during rebound battles. ... West averages 23 points and 10 rebounds on the road, compared to 15 points and five rebounds at home. ... Williams had seven of Utah's 28 assists. The Jazz lead the NBA in assists per game with 26.4.