In 24 games with the Jazz, Mo Williams lived up to his reputation as a shoot-first point guard who can disrupt the flow of an offense but also save the day with a big shot a feisty but fickle player whose value is difficult to quantify.
And the Jazz are starting to realize how much they may need him.
The veteran point guard, in his second stint with the Jazz, is sidelined indefinitely with a "severely sprained" right thumb, an injury that very well could derail the Jazz's already precarious season if Wednesday's loss to the Warriors can be taken as any indication.
"From a leadership standpoint, we're OK," Marvin Williams said, "but he's got the ability to shoot the ball. And when he penetrates like that, runs the pick-and-roll like that, I think it would have helped us out a lot last night."
The Jazz (15-15) lost 94-83, their fifth loss in seven games, all by double figures. Clearly, the Jazz's up-and-down start can't be totally blamed on the absence of Williams and his 12.9 points and 6.7 assists per game.
However, if Williams' injury proves serious, the Jazz could find themselves in a world of hurt. On Wednesday, the Warriors were content to sit in a zone defense, daring the Jazz to shoot, which they did to the tune of a paltry 38.6 percent and just 4-of-17 shooting on 3-pointers.
For any weaknesses Williams may have, or whatever qualities may give Jazz fans fits, he is, if nothing else, a zone buster. The Jazz couldn't shoot 3s, and didn't penetrate against Golden State's zone like coach Tyrone Corbin said he would have liked.
"Even though they were playing the zone," he said, "we never attacked them before they set."
Marvin Williams called Mo a "speedster," and without him, the Jazz never beat the Warriors down the floor, leading Corbin to say, "They shouldn't be able to set up a zone off a miss."
Al Jefferson called the team's performance "embarrassing."
"We're not making the shots," Corbin said. "I think we're getting good looks, we're just not making them. It's not just one or two guys, it's as a group, with this group of guys right now."
The Jazz are 4-2 in games without Williams running the point. Jamaal Tinsley has been and is expected to remain the starter, but on Thursday, Corbin expressed concerns about Tinsley's pace of play.
Asked what the biggest areas of concern without Williams have been, the coach said, "Getting some more speed down the floor, getting the ball down quickly and being able to attack earlier. It's slowed us down quite a bit out on the offensive end, early especially."
One possible remedy could be a big backcourt that Corbin leaned heavily on in the preseason, when Randy Foye and Alec Burks played side by side, with the player in the best position bringing the ball up the floor.
The Jazz could play Gordon Hayward along with those two, and any of the three could bring the ball up the court, Corbin said.
"We got to try to find some speed some kind of way," Corbin said.
More than anything, though, the Jazz should probably just hope for a speedy recovery.
• The Jazz are 4-2 without point guard Mo Williams, but struggled against a zone defense in a loss against Golden State on Wednesday.
• Jamaal Tinsley will likely remain as the Jazz's starter, with Earl Watson as primary backup.
• Coach Tyrone Corbin has options: He may turn to Randy Foye, Alec Burks or Gordon Hayward to handle the ball.
Clippers at Jazz
P At EnergySolutions Arena
Tipoff • Friday, 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports. Radio • 1280 AM/97.5 FM
Season series • First matchup
About the Jazz • Utah has lost five of its last seven games, all by double digits. … Utah is expected to be without point guard Mo Williams for the third straight game. He suffered a severely sprained right thumb in Saturday's loss at Miami. … Al Jefferson leads the Jazz with 16.3 points per game and 10.2 rebounds. … The Jazz play the Clippers again Sunday in L.A.
About the Clippers • After Thursday's win against the Celtics, the Clippers have an NBA best 15-game winning streak. … Blake Griffin had 30 points and 11 rebounds in the Clippers' 105-104 win over the Jazz on Dec. 3. The Clippers were the first team to beat the Jazz at home.