CLEVELAND — Despite losing starting point guard Devin Harris to an injury midway through the second half, the new-lineup Jazz rebounded from their Saturday loss in Dallas by defeating Cleveland 109-100 Monday evening.
Guards: Members of the Jazz backcourt responded favorably to Devin Harris' third-quarter injury, which kept the starter out of the remainder of the game. Jamaal Tinsley responded to meaningful playing time — arguably the second such occasion this season, the other being his 13-assist outing against Golden State on Feb. 2 — by tallying six points and two assists in 10 minutes. Harris had scored nine points and committed no turnovers in his 15 minutes before exiting. Raja Bell was a non-factor offensively in his return to the lineup. Once again, the backcourt let another guard have a big night, as Kyrie Irving scored 22 points. Grade: B.
Forwards: Paul Millsap's 13-point, nine-rebound effort, along with Josh Howard's 14-point, five-board outing in his new role as a starter, would have made for a solid evening for the Utah forwards. But Gordon Hayward's stellar display as the team's new sixth man made for an excellent evening for this group, as the second-year pro responded to his redefined role with 23 points on 8-11 shooting. On the other hand, Cleveland's Antawn Jamison and Alonzo Gee combined for 37 points. Grade: B+.
Centers: Al Jefferson had arguably the best game of his season, as the slender center scored 25 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, dished seven assists and blocked three shots. His counterpart, Ryan Hollins? Three points, four rebounds. Enes Kanter grabbed three rebounds in the less than eight minutes Jefferson let him play. Grade: A.
Bench: Hayward provided half of the reserves' scoring production as the Utah bench outscored Cleveland's group 46-33. Derrick Favors added to Tinsley and Earl Watson's solid showings by tallying eight points and five rebounds in 14 minutes while continuing to challenge Millsap as the team's best hustler. However, four of the bench's six turnovers came from the second-year pro. Grade: A-.
Overall: No criticisms yet for coach Ty Corbin for making a lineup change and sitting one of his rising stars on the bench to start games in favor of the veteran Howard. Like Hayward said in response to the shift, it must be difficult for him to complain when he still receives adequate playing time (his 28 minutes Monday essentially matched his 27.4 per-game average). No doubts that Corbin won't have a problem if Hayward proceeds to make a late case for Sixth Man of the Year. Grade: B+.
Rhett Wilkinson is a journalism and speech communications major at Utah State University. He has previously been an intern for the Deseret News. He can be reached at [email protected] or at Twitter: wilklogan