On a night when it looked like Jamaal Tinsley might not even play, he helped carry the Utah Jazz to a 104-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
Tinsley finished with 12 assists, six rebounds and two clutch free throws in 31 minutes as the Jazz rallied past the Kings at EnergySolutions Arena.
Earlier Friday, the Jazz activated veteran point guard Earl Watson for the first time this season. He underwent knee surgery in April.
It looked like Tinsley might be relegated to the role of coach Tyrone Corbin's No. 3 point guard, which could easily translate into a game-long seat on the bench.
Instead, starter Mo Williams sprained his ankle and, with Watson not ready to play heavy-duty minutes, Corbin turned to Tinsley.
"True pro, man," Corbin said. "He's always ready. Time and time again, when we've counted on him or needed him to step up big, he's done it. And he demonstrated [it] again tonight. He is who he is. Regardless of what's going on, he's going to play."
Tinsley shrugged off another critical effort for the Jazz, who trailed by 13 points in the fourth quarter.
"I just go out there and play," he said. "Once I get minutes, I think I'm always capable of getting assists. ... I can't control who they put in front of me or how many minutes I play. But I'm always in control of how I [can] play hard and compete."
Sacramento owned a 97-91 lead with 3:25 left when Tinsley found Marvin Williams in transition for a jumper.
With 2:11 left, Tinsley grabbed a defensive rebound and was fouled by DeMarcus Cousins. His two free throws gave the Jazz a 100-99 lead.
The game was tied 102-102 with 14.9 seconds left when Sacramento point guard Aaron Brooks drove toward the basket. Tinsley cleanly stripped the ball out of his hands as he rose to shoot.
"It was good," said Tinsley, who called Brooks "... a little, fast, quick point guard. I just wanted to get low and try to beat him to the spot, knowing that he wasn't strong enough to push me off. I just got my hand on the ball."
On the Jazz's final possession, Tinsley patiently held the ball until Gordon Hayward came off a screen. After a perfectly timed pass, Hayward hit the tie-breaking jump shot with 4.5 seconds remaining.
Referring to Tinsley, Corbin said, "He'll get you in your sets and get the ball to the right guys."
The Jazz and Kings play again Saturday night, when Tinsley's role will likely be determined by the severity of Mo Williams' ankle sprain and Watson's ability to play back-to-back on his surgically repaired knee.
"I'm the old man, [but] I think I can still get out here and play [defense]," Tinsley said. "That's what I take pride in. ...
"I know I don't play a lot of minutes. But as a backup point guard, you want to make sure you take the lead just go out there and play hard."