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- Utah Jazz starting power forward Paul Millsap will not play against the Atlanta Hawks tonight. Millsap sprained his left ankle early against the Boston Celtics on Monday, had it re-taped and returned to the game. His ankle trouble helps explain why he shot just 1-for-6 in the second half against the Celtics. Millsap, before tonight, was the only Jazz starter who hadn’t missed a game this season. That’s obviously a big accomplishment through 57 games. “It’s just him taking care of himself,” said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. “A lot of nights when you play, at this time of the year especially, you’re not feeling your best until you get out there and play the game. It shows a lot of character, shows a lot of determination to play consecutive games in a row during the season. It’s a tough thing to do but it shows who you are.”
- Derrick Favors will start in Millsap’s place. It is just his third start of the season, but Utah is 2-0 when Favors is in the starting lineup. He had nine points and 10 rebounds in an 83-76 victory over Washington, and eight points and eight rebounds in a 102-91 win over Houston in November.
- Millsap’s absence comes at a bad time for Utah. The Hawks have won four straight road games by an average of 12 points. They’ve also won five of six games overall. Atlanta has somehow managed to put together a 32-23 overall record despite playing 18 different starting lineups this season. Tonight, they’ll start Kyle Korver, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Devin Harris and Jeff Teague. The Hawks are 5-4 with this starting lineup. “It’s something we’ve done for the last couple of years,” Atlanta coach Larry Drew said of juggling lineups and that a lot of it is done for matchup purposes. “I think of the good it has done us. It’s important for players to stay ready because we never know how we’re going to match up.”
- The Hawks will get Zaza Pachulia back tonight after a one-game absence. Drew was unsure of his status when he met with the media before the game, saying he’d have to test out his sore Achilles. Pachulia will play. “Against Detroit, he participated in shootaround and he was fine and he came to the arena that evening and he wasn’t fine,” Drew said.
- Utah’s Marvin Williams will face the team that drafted him for the first time tonight. Williams did not play in a 103-95 loss in Atlanta because of right knee inflammation. He is ready to go tonight. “You want to put one of your best games forward,” Corbin said of playing a former team. “Although you may have had a great time and you appreciate being with the organization, you want to show you’re a great player and (they) made a mistake in letting you go.”
- The former Jazz players now playing for the Hawks surely feel the same way. Atlanta has three former Jazzmen on their roster with Korver, DeShawn Stephenson and Devin Harris. Fan reactions will probably vary from cheers (for Korver, who was popular with the ladies and still does community work here) to boos (for Harris, who was inconsistent and a disappointment as a replacement for Deron Williams) and indifference (for Stephenson, who has been gone for a long time).
– Andrew Aragon