Coming off a pair of disappointing losses, a four-game road trip was perhaps the last present an NBA team would welcome for Christmas. Then again, the traditional pre-Noel roadie for the Utah Jazz has often helped the team get into the holiday spirit. Tuesday was a prime example, as the Jazz nipped the New Jersey Nets 92-90.
Tale of Two Halves: Utah came out flat, unable to play with any rhythm on either end of the court. Defensively, the Jazz appeared a step slow. Offensively, a preponderance of isolation plays resulted in listless play. They looked discombobulated, distracted and disinterested. New Jersey subsequently enjoyed a seemingly effortless 57-44 lead at the break.
Thank goodness for the Jazz, there are two halves to every game. Two lackadaisical quarters were followed by a pair full of hustle, teamwork, defense and a few lucky bounces. In the second half, Utah appeared to be a different team. Paul Millsap set the tone early with his tireless hustle. His defense was contagious as the Jazz stepped up with more deflections and physicality.
Midway through the fourth quarter, a lineup of Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, DeMarre Carroll, Gordon Hayward and Mo Williams seized momentum with their scrappy play. Utah head coach Tyrone Corbin stuck with that quintet to finish the game and they did not let him down. Each individual made key plays down the stretch.
Utah outscored its opponent 48-33 in the second half.
Revisiting the trade: Much has been said the past two days about former Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams facing his old team. Williams undoubtedly hoped for a better evening. Not only did his team fall short, but his play was rather pedestrian. The All-Star tallied just 14 points and five assists.
Conversely, the other pieces in the Deron Williams trade — Derrick Favors and Marvin Williams (via Devin Harris) — were instrumental to the Utah win. Favors shot just 4 of 10 from the floor, but he made some crucial plays in the clutch and finished with 13 points and three blocked shots. Williams had perhaps his most energetic performance of the season. The swingman was crashing the boards and hustling all game long. His 11 points and season-high 10 rebounds proved his impact.
Odds and Ends:
• Former Utah Jazz first-round pick Kris Humphries had a nice game for the Nets, totaling eight points and 11 rebounds.
• Corbin has been alternating back-up point guards. With Jamaal Tinsley earning the duty the past two games, it would not be surprising for the coaching staff to give Earl Watson the nod Wednesday versus the Indiana Pacers.
• Utah outran New Jersey for a 19-4 fast-break points edge, with many of these baskets occurring in the second half.
• The board battle also went to the Jazz, 48-38.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.