With Chris Paul(notes) out, Deron Williams(notes) got more minutes than any other Western Conference point guard in the All-Star game. The extra playing time may have helped keep Williams sharp for the surging Utah Jazz.
Williams and the Jazz look to win five straight road games for the first time in two years Wednesday night in a matchup with a New Orleans Hornets team that has struggled to overcome the loss of Paul.
Williams played 28 minutes off the bench in Sunday’s All-Star game, posting 14 points and six assists as the West lost 141-139. If Paul was healthy, Williams probably wouldn’t have gotten as much time.
Paul will likely be sidelined for at least another three weeks after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. While New Orleans (28-25) is 3-4 without Paul, Utah (33-19) has been outstanding in recent weeks with Williams leading the offense.
Williams, selected one spot ahead of Paul with the third overall pick in the 2005 draft, had 17 points and 15 assists in his first game following the break, leading the Jazz to a 104-95 win over Houston on Tuesday night in the opener of a four-game trip.
Utah won for the 14th time in its last 16 games and now has a chance to win five in a row on the road for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
Williams had at least 10 assists in a first half for the fourth time this season for the Jazz, who are averaging 108.3 points over their last 13 games. Utah has also gotten strong defense during its midseason run, holding eight of its last 11 opponents to fewer than 100 points.
New Orleans has had its share of problems defensively this season, surrendering 101.2 points per contest, but it held Utah to 37.9 percent shooting in a 91-87 win Jan. 4, the teams’ only previous meeting this season. The Jazz were within four points when Paul stole the ball from Williams, let the clock run down and drove for a layup with 27 seconds left to seal the victory.
The Hornets got a similarly clutch performance from Paul’s replacement in their final game before the break. Rookie Darren Collison(notes) scored 13 of his 25 points in the final period as New Orleans beat Boston 93-85 last Wednesday night.
Coach Jeff Bower desperately needs Collison to step up in Paul’s absence.
“We don’t treat him like a rookie point guard who’s filling in,” Bower said. “We treat him like the point guard of our team who has a responsibility to his teammates … and he doesn’t back down from that.”
Collison is averaging 19.3 points and 9.5 assists while starting seven games in place of Paul, but he’s also posted 4.8 turnovers during that span. He committed a franchise-high 10 turnovers versus the Celtics.
“That’s rookie mistakes right there,” Collison said. “That’s something I’m going to be looking at the film to assess.”
Collison had two points and two turnovers in 11 minutes in his first game against Utah.