While New Orleans played with the Utah guard lineup that might have been, the Jazz backcourt that is more than held its own Friday night.
That was especially the case for the Jazz guards who won't be compared to Hornets star Chris Paul the rest of their careers.
Still recovering from an ingrown toenail surgery Tuesday, Jazz point guard Deron Williams finished with 12 points and seven assists. It was a quieter-than-usual night for him, partly because of his toe woes, partly because of foul problems, and partly because of Paul.
No problem for the Jazz, who cruised to a 99-71 win at EnergySolutions Arena thanks in large part to the play of starting shooting guard Ronnie Brewer and reserve guards Jason Hart and Ronnie Price.
"We need (Williams) on the floor, there is no question about that. But tonight was a great night for a couple of other guys," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, "and that's very encouraging for our team."
Matched up against Morris Peterson, who spurned Utah's offer to play for the Hornets this past summer, Brewer had another consistent game. He outscored Peterson 13 points to 1, and also added four assists and three steals.
"Ronnie Brewer did an excellent job in the ballgame," Sloan said. " ... He just seems to be getting better and better as time goes on."
But it was the unexpected big contributions from the two backup guards that really gave Utah a much-needed spark. The speedy Price and Hart each provided a boost off the bench for the Jazz, playing energetic defense while finishing with season-high point totals.
Price, the former UVSC star, had his best outing in a Jazz uniform with 12 points, two steals and an assist.
Hart, who missed Monday's game against the New Jersey Nets and some practice time this week to attend his grandmother's funeral, scored 11 points with two assists and a steal in his 19-plus minutes.
The two were paired up in the backcourt for a rare occasion late in the second quarter with Brewer and Williams both in foul trouble. Some Jazz fans might have held their breath, but it proved to be the game-changing spurt.
Trailing by six when Price entered at the 1:50 mark, the Jazz stormed into the locker room with a 44-43 lead. In that stretch, Price hit a jumper and then evoked a roar of approval from the crowd when he flew down the court on a fastbreak and scooped in a layup. And the sweet, find-the-fast-traveling-trailer pass? Yep, from Hart.
Sloan said the duo on that play "ignited" the Jazz something they continued to do in key stretches in the second half. They combined for 17 points and nailed five 3-pointers after the break as Utah turned the game into a blowout and a Hart-Price highlight show.
They were the talk of the Jazz locker room afterward.
"Shout out to Ronnie Price! Good game Ronnie Price!" said a smiling Jazz forward Carlos Boozer when the third-year NBA guard entered the room.
"They stepped up big for us," Brewer said of the backups. "They both played really strong."
Hart, the subject of scorn early this season for his inconsistent play, had a previous season-high of seven points. Price was coming off his Jazz-high game of eight points in the blowout win over the Nets on Monday. Friday's performance wasn't a career-high for either, though. Hart had 21 with the Clippers against the Phoenix Suns in 2005.
And the Jazz certainly remember Price's career-best game. It happened last season against Utah, when he scored 16 points, including a hugely athletic dunk over Carlos Boozer, almost a year ago to the date (Nov. 22, 2006)."If my name is called, I have to be ready," Price said. "No matter what the circumstance is, I have to be ready."
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