SALT LAKE CITY -- In the wake of a disappointing overtime loss to the Boston Celtics on Monday, the play of Jazz forward DeMarre Carroll was, in at least a small way, a bright spot.
Carroll, an unheralded, self-proclaimed "junkyard dog" was on the floor at small forward for all of the fourth quarter and the overtime period. His aggressive defense and tenaciousness against Boston All-Stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett must have been delightfully disrespectful in the eyes Jazz fans everywhere.
Carroll, who played 26 minutes off the bench, went after Pierce without hesitation in the fourth quarter, specifically in the closing seconds of regulation.
Pierce didn't look too pleased about it but eventually got the last laugh, scoring seven straight points in overtime, even with Carroll's hand in his face.
"He fought him, he fought him," coach Tyrone Corbin said of Carroll's effort on Pierce. "I thought he did a good job of making him work for everything he got."
Pierce was even asked if there's a rivalry brewing.
"I'll let you ask him," he told the Boston Globe.
And Carroll's response?
"It's a summer thing," he said before Tuesday's practice. "I've been killing him in the summer. He says I was fouling him (and saying), 'Once we get to the real game, I'll be able to do what I want.'"
Carroll didn't apologize when he added, "he had the refs on his side."
Carroll said he spent part of last summer in Los Angeles playing against Pierce, Garnett and other NBA players in highly-competitive pickup games.
"He and K.G. always go there," Carroll said. "They really love me and really speak highly of me. They think of me like I'm their little brother."
That's not a bad comparison considering Carroll is 26 while Pierce is 35 and Garnett is 36.
Carroll and his younger Jazz teammates said they can learn something from Boston's future Hall of Famers.
In much the same way former Jazz Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone used grit, guts and guile in the latter parts of their careers, so too have Pierce and Garnett.
That was evident on Monday. Pierce had six points in the first half and Garnett had only three but by the end of the game, Pierce had 26 and Garnett had 13 plus 10 rebounds.
Kindly, some observers might say the two have become masters at conserving their energy while using crafty tactics to wear their opponents down. By the end of the long game, suddenly the two elder statesmen are in control.
In a less kind way, some observers might call them dirty or cheapshot artists in much the same way Stockton and Malone were.
One fan's instigator is another's Hall of Famer.
"They're a hard-nosed team and that's how I play: talk a lot of noise, get up in you," Carroll said. "You know K.G., every time I come off a pick he'll hold me. But you know, that's part of the game."
Jazz forward Gordon Hayward agreed Monday's game was physical and noted the way Garnett and Pierce seem to know a few tricks in slowing down their younger opponents.
Hayward, who was playing only his third game back from a sprained right shoulder, said he took a few hard shots to that shoulder.
"A couple from Garnett," he said. "It stings for a little bit and then goes away. It's fine."
Hayward, Carroll and other Jazz players said would take Monday's loss as a learning experience, one that can teach them importance of energy conservation, timing and perhaps a few "crafty" tactics.