05 February 2012
We needed a distraction. After the tumultuous last few days of Eclipse-esque drama, debating whether you are #TeamGreg or #TeamKarl, a diversion was absolutely called for. And what better way to deflect our attention from the nastiness that has been brewing in Jazzland than an exciting Saturday night matchup with our good friends, the Los Angeles Lakers?
Well, “good friends” is such a…wrong choice of word there. More like “Pain in our a**”. (Shout out to Karl Malone)
Paul Millsap and Bear showing Greg Miller and Karl Malone how it's done. Can't we all just get along?
Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
An extremely tight, hard fought contest between the Lakers and Jazz turned into a one-sided affair in the final quarter. And as I typed that sentence, knowing the Jazz’s history with the Lakers, you’d probably be expecting a depressing, woulda-coulda-shoulda to follow it up. Well, my friends, on this night, you’d be wrong. So wrong.
Having already suffered two defeats this season to the giant that haunts our sleep, tonight was a prime opportunity to get some positive mojo going at home before hitting the road for 14 of their next 20 games. Getting the Lakers on a back-to-back after a hard fought victory the night before didn’t hurt either.
Neither side truly had a strangle hold on their opponent at any given point of the first three quarters. Part of the problem was the whistles. A flurry of fouls throughout, really, hampered the teams’ ability to create any space. Largest lead of the first half was a 37-31 advantage for Los Angeles, which Utah was able to whittle to just a two point deficit, 49-47, by halftime.
Much of the same in the third quarter, as neither team took the reins. But as the Lakers starters began making their way to the bench in preparation for a fourth quarter showdown, Utah’s bench led by Earl Watson, was ready to put the gas pedal to the floor. Utah slowly started building a lead as the Lakers awful bench floundered. C.J. hit a sweet jumper off the curl, LA called timeout…And then all hell broke loose.
On the Lakers’ next possession, Earl Watson stripped (and possibly fouled) Pau Gasol at the top of the key, leading to an Earl-to-Derrick Favors uncontested dunk (more on Favors’ extraordinary night later), much to the delight of the Energy Solutions faithful. Mike Brown is not one of the Energy Solutions faithful. Therefore, he was not delighted. In fact, he was livid. Brown stormed the court to confront the referee when it appeared he may have made contact with the official. Not surprisingly, Brown was ejected.
Josh Howard made one of two technical free throws, but the floodgates of Jazz scoring were just starting to open. Rookie stud Enes Kanter (more of my thoughts on his fantastic game later) scored a short jumper to put the Jazz up 77-68. He immediately contested the Matt Barnes runner on the other end, forcing the miss, grabbing the rebound and hitting Earl Watson in the open court. Earl found a cutting C.J. Miles baseline and the two connected for a play-of-the-game alley-oop that brought the house down.
It was at this point I tweeted, “Damn, it feels good to be doing this to the Lakers.” Our guys are the ones usually getting punked. We’re the ones not getting the benefit of the doubt. We’re the ones who just can’t quite get over the hump. But tonight? We were doing the punking. And it was a marvelous spectacle of magnificence.
Utah was rolling. In fact, Utah not only held the Lakers scoreless for a nearly five minute stretch of the fourth quarter, they went on a tear of their own, scoring 14 unanswered to lead 83-68. But if you know Kobe, you know the jaw never sleeps.
Kobe immediately fired back consecutive triples, then followed those up with a three-shot foul. Nine straight points reeled off by the Mamba and everybody’s favorite Lakers were right back in it. How would Utah respond? Another “we’re not quite there” meltdown? A roll over and die exhibition?
No sir. Utah responded with absolute confidence – confidence triggered by their backup point guard turned fan favorite, Earl Watson himself - to get over the hump and seal Utah’s first W of the season against the Lakers. Al Jefferson shattered any momentum Los Angeles had going for them by hitting a jumper with less than a second on the shot clock. Deflation ensued. An Earl Watson three was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and Utah would be victorious 96-87.
Earl Watson. What can you say about this guy’s play that hasn’t been said already? Although the “Bulldog” nickname doesn’t quite feel right to me, Earl bullied the Lakers tonight and involved everyone on the floor with him. In an off night for Devin Harris, Earl played the entire fourth quarter on an injured ankle, but you’d hardly notice it was bothering him. Earl’s energy, fire and smart play – especially late in the game – were truly pivotal in this win tonight. Earl for life.
Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter were fantastic tonight. Granted, LA’s bench is one of the worst in the league, but the big man dynamic duo (Kantman and FavoRobin?) were called on to do more than stop Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts. These two combined for 13-18 from the field, 22 points and 14 rebounds. Kanter in particular, had the tough task of keeping Andrew Bynum in check. Time and time again, he succeeded. Bynum struggled in stints versus the rookie, and grabbed only two rebounds in his 13 minutes of Kanter-time. Well done, Enes. You’re more than just a rebounder, and it’s starting to show. Against the starting Western Conference All-Star Center, no less.
I mentioned earlier tonight that creating turnovers, getting out and running (remember, LA’s tiring back-to-back in Denver last night) and keeping LA’s bigs in check were keys to winning this one. Well, how’s this: 12 fast break points for Utah (only FOUR for LA), 14 Lakers turnovers leading to 20 Utah points, and a 52-40 advantage for the Jazz on points in the paint. Against the Lakers bigs, that’s quite the feat. Much love to Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter – each of whom logged double digits in points and combined for 56 points and 40 rebounds. Sweet (Jazz) music to my ears. Couldn’t be prouder of this frontcourt tonight. As for the points off turnovers, what an effort by Earl Watson, again, to lead the charge. Even the Black Mamba himself had praise for Earl, saying his defensive energy was the key and spark for Utah’s success.
Devin Harris had a forgettable night. 0-6 FG, 0-1 from three for just one point and three assists in 22 minutes. Ouch. It’s quite possible that injury is hampering him more than he’s letting on. With Watson, and even Tinsley playing as well as they have lately, perhaps a little extended rest is what Devin needs. Here’s to hoping that’s the only thing throwing his game off.
Outside of a poor showing by Devin, I’m so high off a Jazz win over the Lakers that I’m done focusing on the struggles. This win was needed after the last two losses. A true team effort in every sense of the word, this type of win generates a feeling amongst fans that there is harmony in the locker room, that the team has bought into what Tyrone Corbin is selling, and that the drama from this week is a complete non-factor in their eyes. After all the drama of the past few days, this win certainly was a welcomed distraction – thank you, Jazzmen!
Now, who wants to go to lunch tomorrow? Call me and we can make an appointment. I promise to be on time and will even sign an autograph for you.
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