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Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson Step Up for Utah Jazz

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Mention the Utah Jazz, and big men come to mind -- Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter.

But a couple of little guys are starting to steal the headlines.

Since Dec. 22, when starting point guard Mo Williams was sidelined with a thumb injury, backups Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson have shared the point guard duties. And they've shared 'em well.

Tinsley, a savvy 10-year vet, is averaging 5.9 points and 5.3 assists -- numbers that won't necessarily have opponents shaking in their Nikes but are solid nonetheless -- in seven games as the starter.

He was especially efficient on Jan. 2, when the Jazz routed the Minnesota Timberwolves 106-84. By the end of the contest, No. 6 made six of his eight field goal attempts, including one in which he bounced the inbounds pass off the back of Minnesota's Nicola Pekovic for an easy layup.

Two days later, in another strong performance, Tinsley wowed Suns supporters in Phoenix with an around-the-body, Harlem Globtrotters-esque pass that resulted in a Paul Millsap lay-in.

"I'm trying to control the tempo and not turn the ball over and make sure we get a good shot and attack when I think it's necessary," Tinsley told the Deseret News.

As the primary backup, Watson hasn't done much scoring (just 13 points in seven contests), but the passing specialist has averaged 5.0 assists -- 8.3 in three wins -- in just 21.3 minutes per game.

The 12-year pro certainly kept the Suns' defense scrambling on Jan. 4, when he collected five dimes -- two to Big Al, two to Favors and one to DeMarre Carroll -- in his first five minutes of action.

Via DeseretNews.com: "I'm not really big on scoring a lot of points," said Watson. "If guys are rolling, we have to continue to find them."

Of course, Tinsley and Watson aren't the long-term solution. They aren't going to lead the Jazz to the upper echelon of the Western Conference standings. But they sure are keeping the team competitive.

Tinsley's and Watson's playmaking has led to major points in the paint -- including a season-high 60 against the Suns -- and, more important, two wins in the past three games.

In a recent Instagram post after he underwent thumb surgery, Mo Williams said, "I'm so drugged up rt [sic] now. I ain't got no worries."

With his backups playing the way they are, neither do the Jazz.

Jared Bray, a graduate of Brigham Young University's College of Fine Arts and Communications, has followed the Utah Jazz since 2008, when he covered the team as a sports correspondent for KBYU-TV's Daily News at Noon.

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