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Anaheim, Calif. • Francisco Elson waited 12 days and endured six consecutive missed preseason games due to a frustrating strained right hamstring. So when the veteran Jazz center took the court Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, he did not tread lightly during Utah's 82-74 victory at the Honda Center.
In just 6 minutes and 59 seconds during the second quarter, Elson grabbed four rebounds two offensive and put up four shots, making one. He also picked up two quick personal fouls and one technical. And for good measure, Elson engaged in an old-fashioned gentleman's quarrel with Laker guard Steve Blake.
It was exactly the type of no-nonsense, no-give performance Elson said he wanted to bring to the Jazz (7-0) when training camp started three weeks ago. It just took him a little more time than he initially expected to deliver the gift.
"That's the way I play, man. I try to bring intensity," Elson said. "Because the way I play, I want to win each quarter and every minute of the game. I don't think I know how to relax."
He added: "I think you got to punch somebody first before you get punched."
The center's passion and drive captured the fight of an improving Utah defense that held the Lakers to 33.3 percent (26-for-78) shooting from the field and nine second-chance points. In addition, the Jazz outrebounded Los Angeles 46-37.
"I thought [we] really tried to help each other defensively," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "I thought that was as lively as we've been defensively."
The addition of Elson was somewhat nullified, though, with the temporary subtraction of starting center Al Jefferson, who left the game at the end of the third quarter due to a bruised right knuckle.
Jefferson often dominated Lakers center Pau Gasol, pounding in 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. But after rising skyward for a layup late in third period, Jefferson came down in immediate pain after Lakers center Theo Ratliff blocked his shot.
"I hurt it the first preseason game, and it's kind of never going to heal," said Jefferson, whose right hand was iced and wrapped after the injury.
He added: "Tonight when I went up, he just bent it all the way back, and it was massive. I can play with it, regardless."
Elson was not the only Jazz player making an important return to action.
All-Star guard Deron Williams took the court after missing two consecutive games due to a sprained right calf. Williams started for Utah, played 17:01 during the first half, and clocked 29:01 in the game. He showed no ill effects while running the court, playing in his normal smooth but aggressive style, and finished with 10 points, five assists and four rebounds.
"It felt good," he said. "It still feels good [after the game]. So that's a blessing."
C.J. Miles scored a game-high 14 points to lead the Jazz, while Andrei Kirilenko added 11 points and six rebounds.
Matt Barnes and Shannon Brown topped the Lakers (2-4) with 13 points apiece.
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R One returns • Jazz reserve center Francisco Elson (two points, four rebounds) makes his preseason debut.
One leaves • Utah starting center Al Jefferson (13 points, eight rebounds, four blocks) leaves the game with a bruised knuckle on his right hand.
Tough defense • The Jazz limit the Lakers to 33.3 percent shooting from the floor.
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