Jazz-Bobcats Preview


The Utah Jazz's reserves have come up big lately, and they might have to keep it up with injuries to starters Mo Williams and Marvin Williams.

Utah will try to open its three-game trip with a seventh consecutive victory over the Charlotte Bobcats, who are going for their first home win in 12 tries Wednesday night.

Led by Gordon Hayward (72 points), Alec Burks (34) and Derrick Favors (26), Utah's bench is averaging 44.0 during a 3-1 stretch this month. That group contributed 53 points - two off its season high - in Monday's 100-94 home win over Dallas, as Hayward poured in a season-best 27 with four 3-pointers and Burks scored a season-high 13 while finishing the game at point guard.

"The second unit's job is to go out there and provide a spark, provide energy for us," Hayward said Tuesday after practice. "... Anytime we go in there and do that, it usually lifts the first unit even more."

Point guard Jamaal Tinsley has taken Mo Williams' spot in the starting lineup for the last eight games, and that switch could continue for a while after it was learned that Williams' surgery on his right thumb Friday was for a complete tear instead of a severe sprain.

Williams, averaging 12.9 points with a career-best 6.7 assists, is not expected to have the pin removed from his thumb until mid-February.

The Jazz (18-18) will be without Marvin Williams on this trip as he's sidelined with right knee inflammation. Utah is 0-4 without Williams, and it's uncertain who will take his spot in the starting five.

What is certain is that the Jazz like their chances when they're committing to their defensive principles. After holding the Mavericks to 14 fourth-quarter points Monday, Utah is 13-2 when giving up 96 points or fewer.

"When we buckle down and we really guard people, we're a pretty scary team," Hayward said.

The Bobcats (9-24) haven't put much fear in opponents, but they do enter this contest with two wins in three games following an 0-18 stretch. Leading scorer Kemba Walker had 20 points, including a game-tying driving layup late in regulation, in Sunday's 108-101 overtime victory over Detroit.

"It definitely helped push us away from that losing streak and get on with life," rookie coach Mike Dunlap said.

However, an 11-game home skid - the team's longest since a franchise-worst 14-game slide to end last season - still hangs over the Bobcats' heads.

Charlotte has dropped three straight with the Jazz in town following a 99-93 loss March 7.

Al Jefferson, Utah's leader with 16.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, had 31 points and nine boards in that contest. Jefferson said after the matchup that he expected a much better performance from Bobcats center Bismack Biyombo the next time the teams met.

Biyombo had two points and nine rebounds while committing a career-worst five turnovers and fouling out for the first time as a pro.

"If he's like me, he holds grudges and he'll remember," Jefferson said.

Biyombo - who had 10 points and a career-best 17 boards Sunday - and Tyrus Thomas could get plenty of minutes against Jefferson and Paul Millsap as Bobcats big man Byron Mullens could miss a seventh consecutive game with a left ankle sprain.

Mullens had 16 points, five rebounds and a career-best five blocks in last March's meeting.