Portland, Ore. • At the end of the first half, it sure seemed like the Utah Jazz were headed for a familiar result. Down 52-42, the team lacked fire. It lacked a lot of things.
Tyrone Corbin made two key decisions in the Jazz's surprising 105-95 win over the Portland Trail Blazers that merit further discussion. Both involved benching starters. And both had the potential to backfire if they didn't work.
In the second quarter, Corbin didn't play Mo Williams. Not one second. The Jazz point guard had a quiet to say the least first quarter, which he finished with 2 points, an assist and a turnover in 10 minutes. In Corbin's words, Williams "didn't play his best in the first half."
Williams took it personally. He scored 14 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, and can safely be given the majority of the credit for the Jazz's first road win since Feb. 13. This is something sports writer's often do. We find something that can be seen as a slight and extrapolate it into something bigger. But when asked if his benching was related to his outstanding fourth-quarter play, Williams said, "Yeah, you know, yeah. You get pissed off. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself you come out and be aggressive."
On to No. 2.
Corbin sat Paul Millsap at the start of the third quarter. It seemed suspicious. Millsap had 11 first-half points, 4 boards. Three fouls is approaching danger zone, but not quite there. So why start Derrick Favors in the second half?
Corbin's explanation stands up, and was validated by a second half in which Millsap scored 14 points and 6 boards (25 points, 10 rebounds) and Favors scored 4 points and added 5 rebounds. He also used up all of his fouls.
"Paul had three fouls and Derrick had only one at that time, so we wanted to buy some minutes for Paul. We wanted to stay aggressive. So sometimes guys have a couple fouls early they won't be as aggressive. So I wanted to make sure that we came out with aggressiveness on the defensive end."
If you watched the game, you know Favors was the difference maker in the third quarter.
The quote of the night didn't make it into the dead-tree version of The Tribune, in part because there wasn't a ton of room and, in part, because when you're writing like a mad-man on a Pacific Time Zone deadline you sometimes, in the words of a former Jazz man, "do dumb [stuff]." In this case, I neglected to utilize this hum-dinger of a quote from Jazz oracle Jamaal Tinsley.
Asked about the vibe in the Jazz locker room, which was electric, Tinsley said, " I guess everybody understands the magnitude of winning ballgames. The last couple of months, month and a half, it hasn't been our month."
*** Jazz get Deron Williams and the Nets Saturday night at ESA. The Jazz are back in eighth in the West, but a loss to the Nets and they're right back to chasing. As our Steve Luhm said Friday night on Twitter, "Suddenly, Deron Williams can really, really, really hurt the team that traded him two years ago."