The Utah Jazz came away with back-to-back wins for the first time in three weeks, defeating the Sacramento Kings 106-99 Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena. The win, which appeared to be headed into a laugher early in the fourth quarter, turned into a stressful survival with the Jazz holding on after Sacramento’s last-ditch foul strategy wasn’t enough. Utah shot a respectable 40 percent from the field in the win but could not capitalize on fourth-quarter free throws. The Jazz went 35-of-53 (66 percent) from the charity stripe in the game.
The poor free-throw shooting almost overshadowed the play by Utah’s frontcourt, which dominated the stat sheet. Forwards Marvin Williams and Jeremy Evans each finished with double-doubles, as well as center Derrick Favors. However, when it’s all said and done, a win is a win, and the players were certainly happy to come away with that.
Certainly Utah can’t produce a 35-of-53 night at the free-throw line and beat a team like Golden State, which visits EnergySolutions Arena Friday, but Utah showed its potential to dominate the paint in bits and spurts during the game. If the Jazz can find consistency there, perhaps Utah can add to its miniature two-game winning streak. The Jazz have yet to win three consecutive games, and it won’t be easy against a potent Golden State team — even with the Jerry Sloan banner night extravaganza.
Guards: Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks each finished in double figures offensively, John Lucas played good defense against Jimmer Fredette and Trey Burke didn’t turn the ball over. However, the guards were relatively quiet Monday in terms of turning heads and changing the complexity of the game. In a game where you just didn’t want to make mistakes, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Grade: C+
Forwards: With the Kings missing DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, it should have been expected that Utah would have a good night from its forwards. Either way, Marvin Williams and Jeremy Evans capitalized. Each finished with double-doubles. Evans played some good defense mixed around some spectacular plays and seemed to provide a spark of energy off the bench Monday. Richard Jefferson added a couple of 3-pointers that got the Jazz rolling in the third quarter, when Utah began to start pulling away. Grade: B+
Centers: Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter combined for 33 points and 15 rebounds Monday. They were productive for most of the game, especially Kanter, who has now gone back-to-back games with more than 15 points while shooting 75 percent or better from the floor. They did allow Jason Thompson to pick up a double-double and shoot well, but overall played really nicely in the win. Grade: B
Coach: Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin gets enough flak from fans (I’ve seen the Twitter rants) and many are justifiable, but I give him credit for attacking the paint early and often Monday. He knew DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay were out and that helped. He also gave his fourth line some playing time, which kind of helped Sacramento back in the game when Utah was missing free throws. Grade: B-
Sacramento Kings: I’ll be a little lenient in grading the Kings, considering they were without leading scorer and rebounder DeMarcus Cousins and without Rudy Gay, who was originally listed as a game-time decision. Sacramento got off to a great start in the paint but faded as the game wore on. The Kings also shot poorly from downtown (23 percent) and decently from the floor overall (41 percent). I did dock them for tormenting fans by prolonging the game 30 minutes more than it needed to be by starting the “fouling game” with three minutes left on the game clock. It only made the final score respectable, but that was all it did. Grade: D+