I can’t say enough about how they came out focused tonight. —Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Throughout the second half Wednesday night, exasperated Sacramento Kings fans had seen enough of what was happening at Sleep Train Arena.
“C’mon!” one Sacramento supporter yelled.
“It’s the Jazz!” another shouted from behind the visitors bench.
It sure didn’t look like the Utah Jazz — at least not this season’s version of the team.
For Jazz fans who’ve experienced plenty of exasperation through 19 losses, that was a good thing.
In one of the most surprising games of the year, the Jazz were on the right side of the scoreboard in a blowout.
Final score: Jazz 122, Kings 101.
Do not adjust your newspapers or computer screens. That lopsided score is really how Utah ended its four-game losing streak against a team that won at EnergySolutions Arena in overtime on Saturday night.
“I can’t say enough about how they came out focused tonight,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said.
Much of the focus was on the bottom of the nets as the Jazz kept snapping all nightlong.
While also snapping their four-game losing skid, the Jazz set a slew of season highs. They scored more points than they had all year (122), dished out more assists (35), and had their highest margin of victory (21).
And they did that all while committing just six turnovers and getting production from almost everybody who played. Small forward Richard Jefferson tallied a team-high 20 points, while Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks each scored 17. In all, 10 Jazz players scored at least six points and the squad hit 53.9 percent of its shots, the second-best shooting night of the season.
“We’re sharing the ball,” an ecstatic Corbin said. “We’re counting on each other and making the right basketball play, making the next pass, driving to the basket, being able to break the defense down and kicking it to the weak side. We shot it well tonight, so that’s what we’re going to need.”
For a change, the Jazz (5-19) weren’t the short-handed team on this night.
Because of a trade technicality, Sacramento (6-14) was missing three players it recently acquired in a deal with Toronto. Swingman Rudy Gay, expected to a be a starter, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy were not allowed to play for the Kings because Toronto-bound guard Greivis Vasquez did not get his required physical completed in time Wednesday afternoon.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable playing guys that had not gone through at least a shootaround,” Kings coach Mike Malone said before the game. Sacramento also sent Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson and John Salmons to the Raptors, leaving the Kings with only 10 available players. They got by very well with that limited crew Monday in a 112-97 blowout win over Dallas at home, but Sacramento was only competitive for brief stretches against Utah in their rematch.
It got so bad for the home team in the second half, the Kings found themselves trailing at multiple times by 28 points to the previously struggling Jazz. Utah hadn’t led a team by more than 19 points this season until Jefferson hit a 3-pointer at the 6:28 mark of the third to make it 79-59 for Utah.
It’s the Jazz!?
With a 38-point third quarter, hitting 13 of 23 3-pointers and that kind of offensive explosion all night?
“It was a little crisper tonight,” Corbin said of the team’s execution. “It looks a lot better when the ball goes in.”
One big reason was that Utah’s roster was bolstered by the return of two starting big men.
Favors, who had seven rebounds and three blocks, returned after missing the previous two games, including the OT home loss, with a sore lower back, while Marvin Williams (eight points, five assists) played after sitting out four straight, all losses, with heel inflammation in his right foot.
“I think the team is different with their presence on the defensive end, their communication skills,” Corbin said at the team’s morning shootaround. “The way the other guys respond to them on both ends of the floor. Offensively, we can (spread) things out. They’re a huge part of what we’re trying to do.”
That was evident from early on in this rout.
Corbin called a timeout just 1:48 into the game with a scoreless tie, and the Jazz came out guns blazing after that.
Utah went on a 7-2 run, endured a 5-0 spurt from the Kings and then dominated for most of the next 43 minutes.
Hayward gave the Jazz their first double-digit lead at 26-15 with a long jumper at the 2:23 mark of the first quarter.
Utah shot 58.1 percent in the first half and then really exploded after halftime, outscoring the Kings 38-26 in that decisive third quarter.
Point guard John Lucas III tossed an alley-oop pass to a soaring Jeremy Evans, who slammed in the victory’s exclamation mark over 7-footer Hamady Ndiaye with less than a minute left.
By that time, the remaining Kings fans were only left with one thing to cheer about: Jimmer Fredette. The former BYU star, who has rarely played this season, thrilled the crowd, setting off a “Jimmer! Jimmer!” chant in the closing moments when he hit a 3-pointer during his 13-point outing off the bench.
Other than that, however, it was mostly frustrating for the Kings, who received three technical fouls, saw rookie Ben McLemore miss two dunks four nights after hitting that critical late 3-pointer in Saturday’s win, and had their two-game win streak ended by a surprising Jazz team that began a brutal road stretch with a much-needed victory.
EMAIL: [email protected]