Williams leads Jazz to big win

Mar 16 2013 - 11:08pm

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Rick Bowmer/The Associated Press
Memphis Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph (50) goes for a rebound against Utah Jazz’s Paul Millsap (24) in the first quarter Saturday in Salt Lake City.
Rick Bowmer/The Associated Press
Memphis Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph (50) goes for a rebound against Utah Jazz’s Paul Millsap (24) in the first quarter Saturday in Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY -- After 32 games on the bench -- or rather, behind it -- Jazz point guard Mo Williams is back on the floor with his teammates, fighting to find a rhythm ... fighting to win ballgames.

Williams, 30, suffered a sprained right thumb on Dec. 22, 2012 and later underwent surgery to repair damaged ligaments.

Relegated to rehab and cardio work in the gym, over the next two dozen-plus games he watched from afar as the Jazz attempted to piece together an identity.

Seeing it from the sidelines wasn't easy, he said. However, now that he is back in the starting lineup, Williams is finding the transition to be almost as difficult.

Since his return, Utah is just 2-5, including Saturday night's 90-84 home victory over Memphis in a late-starting, nationally-televised game.

Williams finished with 13 points and six assists.

"It's thrown us off a little bit, more than I expected it to," coach Tyrone Corbin said of Williams' return to the lineup.

He said he wanted to ease Williams back into the action, starting him right away, but keeping a close watch on the number of minutes Williams played.

Although he was able to work on his stamina throughout his time away from the court, Williams still had to play himself back into game shape.

He said he still continues to regain strength as well as lung capacity.

"Trying to get acclimated is tough," he said. "Hopefully it happens sooner rather than later."

Developing the stamina to stay on the floor longer is one thing, finding a rhythm and a chemistry with the four other guys out there is something completely different.

Williams is Utah's most talented point guard but it seems clear he and his teammates are still trying to find the most efficient way to play.

"He's another scorer, he can score the ball," shooting guard Randy Foye said.

It's true, Williams is a good offensive threat, averaging more than 12 points and six assists per game. However, while he was out the Jazz relied heavily on veterans Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson, neither of which is considered an attacker.

During that time Corbin also used second-year pro Alec Burks, a natural shooting guard who has some point guard skills.

Foye noted that playing with four different quarterbacks has been a challenge if only because each brings something slightly different to the equation.

"I've played with Alec, played with Jamaal, played with Earl, played with Mo," he said with a laugh. "So, you know, you've got to get used to it at the beginning, but it's a good thing."

Juggling four different point guard during the season isn't a big deal, Williams said.

"We practice every day. I don't think it's a challenge," he said. "We know each other's game."

At the time of his injury, Williams -- a newcomer to the Jazz this season -- had played only 23 games with his new teammates.

The Jazz originally drafted Williams out of Alabama in the second round of the 2003 draft. There was a desire to keep him after his rookie season but ultimately the team decided not to extend his contract.

After successful stints with the Bucks, Cavaliers and Clippers, he returned to the Jazz as part of a four-team trade on June 29, 2012.

GAME 66

Jazz 90, Grizzlies 84

* BEST PLAY: Driving baseline and then spinning the ball from an odd angle off the backboard, Grizzlies guard Tony Allen hits a scooping reverse layup to put his team ahead 19-11 in the first quarter.

* BEST LINE: Memphis' Jerryd Bayless came off the bench for 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting. He also had two assists and two rebounds.

* KEY STAT: Gordon Hayward returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Nov. 16, 2012, scoring 17 points while notching eight rebounds and three assists.

* GREEN TEAM: Celebrating St. Patrick's Day, the Jazz wore their alternate green uniforms on Saturday.

"I guess that's what's going on," Jefferson said after the morning shootaround. "I just walked in the locker (room) and saw green uniforms and green shoes. I put 'em on."

Jefferson said he doesn't get into St. Patty's Day all that much, but it should be noted he was originally drafted by the Boston Celtics with the No. 15 pick in the 2004 draft.

* MILESTONE: Saturday marked the 25th anniversary of the game in which Jazz center Mark Eaton recorded his 2,000th career blocked shot. The 7-foot-4 center, whose No. 53 jersey has been retired by the Jazz, swatted six shots against the Dallas Mavericks in a 120-105 victory on March 16, 1988.

* INJURY REPORT: After dealing with a number of nagging injuries of late, the Jazz went into Saturday's game completely healthy. Jefferson (ankle), Millsap (knee) and Jamaal Tinsley (illness) were all available. ... The Grizzlies listed guard Darrell Arthur as "day-to-day."

* ETC.: The Grizzlies led by as many as eight points in the first quarter but the Jazz came charging back and took a 22-21 lead at the end of the period. ... Memphis won the second-quarter battle 29-23 and went into halftime up 50-45. ... Zach Randolph had 15 points and five rebounds in the first half. ... Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins was given a technical foul in the third quarter. ... Memphis had won six in a row before losing to the Nuggets in Denver on Friday.

* UP NEXT: The Jazz will play host to the New York Knicks on Monday, then hit the road for the rest of the week, making stops in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas before retuning home to play Philadelphia on March 25.

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