17 March 2011
The box score may credit Raja Bell with three assists, but in actuality he had four.
With exactly 2:00 left in a revenge game against the Minnesota Timberwolves Utah Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin called for Raja Bell to come out of the game.
In a veteran move, Bell instead indicated to teammate CJ Miles that he should head to the bench first, knowing that after a smoking hot new career high 40-point performance the crowd would want to give the soon-to-be birthday boy his due.
And boy did they!
After dropping an NBA-best-on-the-season for 35 points or more, 2.22 points-per-shot taken, Miles received a loud and long standing ovation from an appreciative Energy Solutions Arena crowd.
This starting role for Miles is one we at The Utah Jazz Blog have touted all season long as the right one for the Jazz. There's no doubt that CJ is highly gifted offensively, but used off the bench as a primary offensive weapon opposing teams can key in on him, causing him to force up poor shots in an attempt to keep Utah's anemic offensive bench in the game.
However, in the starting role Miles can flourish. Not only is he bigger than many of the opposing shooting guards he plays against, allowing him to use his length as the team's best statistical guard defender, but he also is allowed to play within the natural offensive flow and scheme of the team, with defenses kept honest and busy having to try and contain the beast that is Al Jefferson.
It's hard to not feel vindicated after that unreal performance from Miles, as this is the role we've felt all along that he should be in. There's a multitude of reasons he should have been there in the first place, and just about all of them have been chronicled here at TUJB between numerous posts and replies to readers' comments. Feel free to roll back through the posts; there's at least a half dozen on the topic, and several others with references to what was such an obvious sore thumb to what might have been had it been addressed sooner.
I kept waiting for the tweets from CJ, the celebration, but soon realized that they weren't coming, that he most likely wouldn't be satisfied with a single such amazing game. That in Miles' mind there was still too much work to be done.
And a single mention of the moment finally emerged late this morning.
And that was all. Right back at it.
All season long I've bantered and debated back and forth with Miles' many detractors, asserting and insisting that he hadn't come close to peaking yet, only to be beaten and battered by those who were sure that after only 23 years of age, 300-some games, and less than 6,000 NBA minutes he was done.
Two months ago I noted just how bad the Jazz were in efficiency differential at the SG spot, at the time minus 12.
All season long it's been the most glaring sore spot in the Jazz's starting lineup, an area I've tracked and checked after every couple of games. Just two days ago I gave the most recent of several updates on this specific position. It hadn't improved, still sitting at a minus 5.5 on the season
In a mere two starts at the shooting guard spot, CJ Miles has brought the Jazz's biggest hole in the starting lineup to a plus 21.5. Even with the third game back factored in, one in which Miles didn't start and Utah was blown out in, the Jazz are now third in the NBA over the last three games at the shooting guard position, bested only by the red hot Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade.
Miles became the second-youngest Jazz player in the last 25 years to score 40 points in a game, and joined an illustrious list of franchise legends, as noted by 1320 KFAN's David Locke.
Locke has recently echoed our long-held assertions that CJ should have been starting all along over Bell.
"It is going to be a shame if it is clear at the end of the year that CJ should have been starting all year. The numbers have been screaming at us that this is true. The starting line-up with Raja was one of the three worst starting line-ups in the entire NBA and the line-up with CJ was one of the three best in the NBA."
What have we been telling you?
That you start your five best players.
"Furthermore, the idea that you need to keep a scorer on your bench at the expense of the starting line-up defies all statistical models."
As myself and Jake Jeppson have been telling anyone who would listen on Twitter, would you rather play from behind every single game, or jump out ahead and try and hold that lead?
In the last two games, with Miles starting at the 2-spot, the Jazz have jumped out to huge leads, a rarity this season for them, and held on for their first back-to-back wins in two months' time.
The results clearly speak for themselves. Let's hope it's not too late to salvage this season, that it's not too late to rectify the season-long mistake.
We know for sure that the three young 'uns in the following tweet haven't given up yet.
In any case, take heart, Jazz Fan, for the future of the franchise is yet bright.
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