Seldom-used players get chance to contribute for Jazz

Seldom-used players get chance to contribute for Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY — Their stat lines weren’t huge, but seldom-used Raul Neto and Jeff Withey both played key roles in the Utah Jazz’s big win at Houston on Wednesday night.

With George Hill out due to his ailing big toe, Neto started the second half instead of Dante Exum. The Brazilian Neto finished with five points, two assists and, shockingly, two blocked shots in the 115-108 victory.

With Derrick Favors out with his injured knee, Withey provided some nice backup minutes for Rudy Gobert. He contributed four points and five rebounds.

Regular bench players Joe Johnson (16 points), Alec Burks (10 points), Joe Ingles (six points, six assists, five rebounds) and Boris Diaw (four points, four rebounds) all chipped in to help pull off what could be a playoff-seed-changing outcome.

That thrilled Jazz coach Quin Snyder, whose team is now benefiting from the normality of having guys in and out of the lineup due to injuries the past couple of seasons.

Snyder specifically credited Withey for being prepared to go after the numerous DNP-CDs he’s had this season and Neto for going from being a starter as a rookie to the fourth point guard on the bench this season.

“To be honest, we’ve been in these situations a lot, so there are different guys each night,” Snyder said. “When you have the right spirit, the game rewards you and that’s what happened with those two guys tonight. It’s easy to say, ‘Stay ready,’ and we say that stuff as coaches, but it’s hard to do. For those guys to literally be ready and contribute like they did, it was pretty good.”

Withey said he puts in a lot of off-hours work to be ready to heed his coach’s occasional and unpredictable call.

“It’s tough because you never know when your name will be called, so you have to be ready,” Withey said. “On days off, I’m always in the gym running, trying to stay in shape, get shots up and stuff. It’s tough mentally also. It’s part of the business. It’s part of the job.”

The injuries continue to give experience to guys who would normally not get as much time — who knows where Ingles, now a very valuable asset, would be had he not gotten extra opportunities because of his teammates’ medical misfortune.

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“Definitely, I think we have a really, really good team, a special team,” Withey said. “The front office has done a great job putting this team together. We all like each other. I think that’s a big part of why we’re successful is we’re a pretty close team, but we work hard and the results show.”

Being shorthanded doesn’t even faze the Jazz now after all of the excused absences they’ve had this season.

“We have guys that can play and everybody can bring something,” Gobert said. “Everyone did a great job (Wednesday) and we have guys that can step up and come and compete, so it was great.”

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Published at Fri, 10 Mar 2017 02:06:00 +0000