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San Antonio • C.J. Miles was out. The Jazz were down 17 at halftime. DeMarre Carroll saw an opening. And instead of taking the court afraid to make mistakes as he had often done since signing Feb. 8 with Utah, Carroll hit the hardwood with one idea: Be himself.
Be the fast, fearless, aggressive athlete who led Missouri to the Elite Eight in the 2009 NCAA men's basketball tournament. Be the small forward worthy of the No. 27 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. Be the third-year veteran Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor had long eyed and proudly signed after Memphis, Houston and Denver gave up.
Just be DeMarre Carroll.
He finally was Sunday.
The 98th game of Carroll's career was his best. He poured in a career-high 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, buried 3 of 4 3-pointers with a quick release and smooth stroke in transition, and helped guide Utah back from a first-half blowout during a 114-104 loss to San Antonio.
In just 17 minutes and 52 seconds of action all after halftime Carroll proved why teams have continued to take chances on him. The former first-round bust also showed he still has life in the league.
"I've been a true professional. Not letting them things get to me. Just continuing to keep grinding," Carroll said.
The ex-Tiger didn't play in 20 games after signing with the Jazz, and often didn't look comfortable when he was on the court. But after receiving an extended audition Sunday, Carroll's learned a key lesson. He initially made his name being an aggressive attacker. He could make a new one if he plays as sharp as he did against the Spurs.
"Now I'm, like, whatever," Carroll said. "I'm going to get out there and play as hard as I can, do what I normally do and … show everybody in the Utah Jazz what I've been working on."
After losing Miles and Earl Watson to injuries Sunday, the Jazz could use small forward Josh Howard more than ever.
Howard said before tipoff he's targeting April 24 against Phoenix for his return. He hasn't experienced any swelling or setbacks during his rehabilitation from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, and he continues to eye the week of April 16 for resumption of basketball-related activities.
"I want to be back for those last two games of the season," Howard said.