THE FACTS: The Utah Jazz no longer control their playoff destiny, but they did their part to stay alive in the Western Conference postseason race on Friday night.
Paul Millsap had 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists and Gordon Hayward scored a team-high 23 points as Utah grinded out a 95-83 victory over the New Orleans Hornets. The Jazz began the night a half game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the last Western Conference playoff spot with five games left to play. Los Angeles hosted Memphis in a late game on Friday.
The Hornets, despite being long eliminated from the playoff chase, gave Utah a fight. Anthony Davis scored a game-high 24 points and collected 12 rebounds, and Greivis Vasquez had 21 points for New Orleans.
Derrick Favors had 10 points, 10 rebounds and tied a career-high with six blocked shots for Utah. Al Jefferson scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half.
QUOTABLE: "He struggled in the first half. I don't know if he made a basket in the first half. But he came out with a lot of confidence in the second half, was aggressive, took the right shots and we ran from there."
-- Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin on Hayward finding his shot after halftime
THE STAT: The Jazz's second unit didn't just give Utah a boost -- it also dominated New Orleans' bench. Utah's bench turned the game in the Jazz's favor in the second quarter, and it outscored New Orleans' reserves 22-11. The Hornets' bench couldn't throw it in the ocean, as their reserves combined to shoot 2-for-25.
TURNING POINT: Utah only led by four points going into the fourth quarter, but put the game away by clamping down on the Hornets. The Jazz held New Orleans scoreless for nearly the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. The Hornets missed their first six shots before Robin Lopez finished an alley-oop from Vasquez with 7:07 left in the game. The Jazz, meanwhile, scored eight unanswered points to go ahead 79-67. Randy Foye hit a 3-pointer to open the period, while Favors dunked in a lob from Foye and Hayward made a turnaround jumper to give Utah some much-needed breathing room.
HOT: Millsap was the only Jazz starter to play effectively in the first half. He scored 17 of his points and shot 7-for-8 before halftime. Hayward regrouped from a subpar first half when he shot 1-for-8 and scored three points. He shot 8-for-10 in the second half, scoring 12 of his points in the fourth quarter. He also tied his career-high with five 3-pointers. Vasquez had his way against Utah point guards in the first three quarters. He scored all of his points prior to the fourth quarter, before Corbin made a nice adjustment of putting DeMarre Carroll and Hayward against him. Vasquez still impacted the game though, dishing four of his nine assists in the fourth quarter. Davis rebounded in a big way after shooting 2-for-11 and scoring six points against Golden State on Wednesday. He shot 6-for-8 in the second half and scored the third-highest point total of his rookie year. He also recorded his 18th double-double of the season.
NOT: Ryan Anderson is known as one of the more consistent sharpshooters in the league, but he was the complete opposite of that against the Jazz. He shot 0-for-10 overall and missed four 3-pointers. His production was sorely missed as he's New Orleans' second-leading scorer and he's led the team in scoring in 25 games. Other Hornet bench players Xavier Henry (0-for-5) and Brian Roberts (1-for-6) didn't help much either. For the Jazz, Foye struggled from 3-point range for the second straight game. He shot 2-for-7 from beyond the arc.
QUOTABLE II: "That's what I do, come in the game, bring energy, do the hustle things, the little things that are going to get my team going. I've been doing it all year and I just had another opportunity open up and I just tried to take advantage of it."
-- DeMarre Carroll
GOOD MOVE: The Jazz badly needed an energy spark and got it when Corbin inserted Carroll into the game late in the first quarter. Carroll had received the dreaded DNP-CD (did not play-coach's decision) in seven of Utah's last 11 games after Hayward returned to the starting lineup. He immediately made an impact against the Hornets, making hustle plays and scoring occasional baskets. He played 12 minutes in the first half, had five points, two assists, two steals and a rebound. When Carroll entered the game, the Jazz trailed 18-11. When he left, Utah led 42-34.
BAD MOVE: Hornets coach Monty Williams and point guard Eric Gordon got into a screaming match during a timeout with 8:37 left in the third quarter. Millsap had just scored on a putback to put Utah ahead 55-47 and New Orleans called a timeout. Williams was visibly agitated, yelling in Gordon's direction. He had to be held back by assistant coach Randy Ayers after Gordon hollered back at him, and when the team went to the sidelines, Williams continued screaming at Gordon. Gordon, the team's leading scorer, did not return to the game after the confrontation. The incident was indicative of an overall disjointed effort by New Orleans. The Hornets played hard, but didn't play well together. They dished just 13 assists and allowed the Jazz to shoot 50.6 percent.
NOTABLE: Jazz reserve point guard Jamaal Tinsley suffered a bruised lower back in the fourth quarter and did not return. Alec Burks sprained his ankle in the first half and did not return. Marvin Williams (sore heel) dressed, but did not play in Friday's game. Millsap hadn't scored 20 points in a home game since Feb. 8.
UP NEXT: For the Hornets, Sunday @ Phoenix, Tuesday @ L.A. Clippers, Wednesday @ Sacramento. For the Jazz, Sunday @ Golden State, Tuesday vs. Oklahoma City, Friday vs. Minnesota.