The banged-up Utah Jazz overcame the absence of Deron Williams(notes) to end their longest losing streak in more than three years. The star point guard may not be needed again if his team can get another outstanding effort from his replacement.
Williams will be a game-time decision when Utah tries to end a five-game road skid Sunday night against the struggling Golden State Warriors.
Earl Watson(notes) made his first start of the season Friday in place of Williams and had a career-high 13 assists in a 108-100 win over Minnesota. That snapped a six-game skid for the Jazz (28-19), their longest slide since dropping six in a row Dec. 4-14, 2007.
“When you get easy baskets in transition and get layups, it gives the guys confidence,” Watson said. “It builds a rhythm and builds chemistry and makes everything easy.”
While Williams sat out with a hyperextended right wrist suffered Wednesday, Watson’s energy even wore out his teammates.
The Jazz and Warriors have split two meetings this season and Watson played sparingly in both, totaling two points. Williams has averaged 26.5 points in the two matchups.
“It’s been a tough few weeks for us,” Millsap said. “It just feels good to get back on the winning side. We’ve got a lot of positive attitudes in here and everybody feels good with this win.”
The Warriors aren’t feeling nearly as good.
Golden State (19-27) lost its fourth straight Friday, blowing a 16-point lead and falling 121-113 in overtime to Charlotte. Former Warrior Stephen Jackson’s(notes) tying 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left in regulation sent the game to an extra period, during which Golden State was outscored 20-12.
The Warriors fell to 0-3 on a season-high eight-game homestand.
“Being young, inexperienced, understanding how important every possession is, you don’t take quick shots or bad shots,” coach Keith Smart said. “You have to finish plays around the basket.”
Monta Ellis(notes) is fourth in the league with 25.7 points per game, but he’s averaged 14.8 in 14 career meetings with Utah - his second-lowest average against any team. His 37.4 field-goal percentage in those contests represents his lowest versus any opponent.
Stephen Curry(notes) had 27 points Friday and has averaged 25.4 in his last five. He missed the Warriors’ 108-95 loss to the Jazz on Dec. 13 because of a sprained ankle, but scored 20 in an 85-78 win over Utah on Nov. 5.
The 78 points allowed in that contest are the fewest given up by the Warriors since a 91-78 win over the Jazz on Nov. 25, 2006. Golden State is allowing 107.0 points per game, second most in the NBA.
The Jazz have won four of the last five meetings with the Warriors.