Sloan Looks to Bench to Beat Clippers

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Head coach Jerry Sloan was not happy with the play of his starters so he looked to his bench to start the second half and play with passion and vigor, and they came through. The Jazz beat the Clippers 97-92last night at Staples Center. Mikki Moore, Raja Bell, and Maurice Wiliams got oodles of playing time to help the Jazz overcome a 40-34 halftime deficit.

The Clippers extended their season-high losing streak to 11 games. Nobody knows how to lose like the Clippers. Yet it seemed that after halftime, the Jazz would be on the receiving end of the loss, until Sloan put in his bench to start the second quarter. "Some of our reserves got us back into the game with hustle plays," he said. "I don't care who plays. If a guy doesn't come out and play hard he can sit down." Sloan was true to his word as every player listed as available saw at least some action.

The biggest disappointment for the starters was Tom Gugliotta who was yanked after a mere seven minutes of action. He played the fewest minutes of anybody on the roster. The starter who played most like a starter was Andrei Kirilenko, who saw a team-high 34 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Greg Ostertag did not start and played only nine minutes. Raul Lopez played only eight.

We'll see if Sloan's fierce substitutions get even more heart and hustle into this team, and if it'll be enough to get a playoff berth. It will be even more interesting to see tonight's matchup as Hubie Brown is essentially locked into his substitution patterns while Sloan can and does go crazy at times.

We could see a lot of different matchups tonight.

The Jazz host the Memphis Grizzlies in a rescheduling of their earlier game this season. The game starts at 7:00pm and will not be broadcast on any television station.

If you had a ticket to the Jazz's Jan. 7 game against Memphis, it will be honored tonight when that game is made up at the Delta Center. If you recall, the original game was postponed and later rescheduled because wacky inclement weather prevented the Grizzlies from leaving Portland for Utah. For more information about tickets for the makeup game, call 801-355-3865.

Matt Harpring
(knee) andCurtis Borchardt(wrist) are on the injured list. Borchardt has been cleared to practice and Harpring's recovery apparently has been going smoothly.


Tim Buckley ofThe Deseret Morning News writes: When usual subs Mo Williams, Mikki Moore and Michael Ruffin opened the second half Sunday night, coach Jerry Sloan wasn't just tinkering, like the farmer from Illinois might with a tractor that isn't quite right.Utah shooting guard Sasha Pavlovic shoots over Clippers guard Keyon Dooling during the first half of the Jazz's win over the Clippers on Sunday in Los Angeles. This was more along the lines of an overhaul, requisite when the spitting and sputtering gives way to major malfunction. Sloan's repair job worked, too, as Williams, Moore and Ruffin helped rally the Jazz past the Los Angeles Clippers 97-92 on Sunday night at the Staples Center. Besides giving the Clippers their 11th loss in a row, Utah pulled a half-game ahead of 10th-place Portland and back into a virtual tie with idle Denver for the NBA's eighth and final Western Conference playoff position.

Tom McEachin ofThe Ogden Standard-Examiner writes: When the Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies were originally scheduled to meet back on Jan. 7, the game didn't seem like that big of a deal.Utah was a surprising 18-16 at the time, but leading scorer Matt Harpring had suffered a season-ending knee injury just two games earlier, so the Cinderella run appeared to have run its course. And the Grizzlies, who have never made the playoffs in franchise history, had ended a seven-game losing streak just the week before and appeared headed to another losing season. But 43 games later, when the two teams return to the Delta Center tonight to make up the game that had been called off because the Grizzlies were stranded by a storm in Portland, Ore., the Jazz remain in the hunt for a playoff spot -- and the Grizzlies are chasing home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Phil Miller ofThe Salt Lake Tribune writes:Jerry Sloan is impressed with the Memphis Grizzlies' transformation into a contender. He's just not surprised.The Jazz's coach predicted 16 months ago, when Grizzlies president Jerry West hired Hubie Brown to take over an 0-8 team, that Memphis' talent would begin to show itself soon. Good call. The Grizzlies are one of the biggest surprises -- to everybody but Sloan -- in the NBA this season, having climbed into fifth place in the Western Conference and secured the first playoff berth in the franchise's nine-year existence.

Phil Miller ofThe Salt Lake Tribune writes: The Jazz seem to be engaged in a fierce battle these days, and not just for a playoff berth.Utah moved back into a tie for eighth place with Denver on Sunday by winning its 40th game of the season, 97-92 over the reeling Clippers. If the Western Conference's last-place team felt bad about losing its 11th straight game -- and honestly, there's little evidence it did -- the Clippers had nothing on Jerry Sloan. The Jazz coach sent a clear message to his roster: Play hard or sit. And if they didn't get the message during the game, in which Sloan discarded his normal substitution pattern and handed the ball instead to reserves Michael Ruffin, Mikki Moore and Mo Williams, he made sure to drive home his lesson afterward.