Individual matchups can make a huge difference in the NBA, and coach Tyrone Corbin hinted he will be more inclined to create them after Paul Millsap destroyed Portland.
Taking advantage of his size advantage against the Trail Blazers' Wesley Matthews and Nicholas Batum, Millsap scored 19 of his 31 points in the second half Monday night and led the Jazz to a 102-97 victory at the Rose Garden.
The Jazz returned to practice Tuesday morning, and Millsap smiled when asked about Corbin's decision to give him extended minutes at small forward.
"That's who I am, that's who my family is, that's where I come from," Millsap said. "I do whatever it takes."
Millsap stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 245 pounds. He is three inches taller and 25 pounds heavier than Matthews, a former teammate. He is the same height as Batum, but weighs 45 pounds more.
The mismatch "… makes my job a little easier on offense," Millsap said. "But I also have to guard them on the other end. And I felt like I did a pretty good job."
Corbin played center Al Jefferson 39 minutes. Millsap played 34 minutes. Second-year man Derrick Favors played 35 minutes.
"We were struggling a little bit to score points and they were big inside," Corbin said. "We needed to get some shots in there.
"Paul has played some 'three' before and it was just an opportunity to keep some size and offensive punch on the floor. … It worked out well."
Corbin says Millsap could play more small forward in the Jazz's final 12 games: "Paul did a great job of going inside and scoring and the guys did a great job of getting the ball to him. It's something we'll look at more going forward."
Injured Howard attends practice
Jazz wingman Josh Howard, out with a knee injury, attended practice but did not participate.
He did cardio work on a stationary bike, lifted some weights and spoke about a quicker-than-expected return from the injury that has sidelined him since March 18.
"It's moving along great feeling great every day," Howard said. "It's already two weeks out, come Wednesday, and the prognosis was three to four weeks. So just going continue to keep working. Hopefully, they might cut me loose early. If not, I'm going to shoot for the playoffs, for sure."
Howard also wanted to do some standstill shooting during practice, although he has not been cleared to do so.
"They won't let me, but I'm out here now trying to sneak it in," Howard said. "So that's cool."
Nash still driving Suns
The Jazz play Phoenix twice in the final three weeks of the regular season, including Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
In their only other meeting so far, the Suns shot 56.4 percent and rolled to a 120-111 victory. Channing Frye scored 26 points, Marcin Gortat added 25 and Jared Dudley chipped in with 21.
The 38-year-old point guard finished with 12 points and 16 assists and remains the focal point of the Phoenix attack because of the way he "… navigates the floor and controls the offense," Corbin said.
"… The way they can space the floor we have to make sure we keep Nash out of the paint. But we've also got to make sure we get back to the 3-point shooters. We [didn't] do that in Phoenix."
The Jazz could be without starting point guard Devin Harris. He sprained his ankle against Portland and is listed as a game-time decision.
Malone's son chooses LSU
The son of former Jazz star Karl Malone has committed to play football at LSU.
Karl Malone Jr. is a 6-foot-4, 290-pound offensive lineman. He is finishing his junior year at Cedar Creek High School in Ruston, La.
"It's something he's been thinking about," Cedar Creek coach Ben Haddox told GeauxTigerNation. "There's a lot of pressure on kids, at 16 years old, to make these kinds of decisions. I think that's been weighing on him. However, he has handled it great."