The Utah Jazz noticed an immediate difference in their play after getting Deron Williams back. The Sacramento Kings continue to be reminded of how much they miss Kevin Martin at the end of close games.
After their best offensive performance of the season, Williams and the Jazz look to take advantage of a struggling Kings team Friday night.
Williams missed seven straight games with a sprained left ankle sustained in the preseason. He had played only twice this season, on Nov. 11 and 12, before he was sidelined again.
In his first game back, Williams had 11 points and 15 assists, and Utah (10-6) had its highest point total of the season in a 117-100 win over Memphis on Wednesday night.
The star point guard feels he’s back to stay.
“I’m still a little hesitant physically,” Williams said. “I got a little nervous down around the basket, but it felt pretty good. I know my limitations right now. I’m not going to come back and score 25, but I can do my part and get guys shots, and try to run the offense.”
Williams played 29 minutes and moved around the court well, but often stretched awkwardly to try and keep his ankle loose during breaks. He had the ankle wrapped in an ice pack when he wasn’t in the game.
“We’re just glad to have Deron back,” coach Jerry Sloan said. “In the open floor, he gets guys the basketball. That’s what makes him such a great player and when someone can get you the ball in the open court, you run harder.”
Sloan would love to have Williams feeding the ball to Carlos Boozer, but the veteran forward has missed four straight games with a strained left quadriceps and isn’t likely to play until next week at the earliest.
Sacramento (5-12) is playing without its own star player in Martin. He has missed 10 straight games but may return Saturday against Dallas.
Martin, one of the NBA’s top scorers, is averaging 22.4 points in seven games and the Kings certainly could have used him down the stretch in their last two contests.
Sacramento lost 91-90 at Portland on Monday night and 116-114 in overtime at home against New Jersey two days later, missing a go-to scorer down the stretch in each of the tightly contested matchups. The Kings were held to 16 points in the fourth quarter against the Trail Blazers and nine in OT versus the Nets.
John Salmons scored a career-high 38 points Wednesday, but missed 4-of-8 free throws late in the game and overtime that could have clinched the victory.
Sacramento has lost four straight and seven of its last eight.
“There is always a fresh slate,” Kings center Spencer Hawes said. “No matter how well you play or how poorly, there is always the next and another one right around the corner.”
Hawes has played well in his second season for Sacramento, averaging 12.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. He had 15 points, nine rebounds and matched a career high with six blocked shots against New Jersey.
Utah and Sacramento split four games last season.