Huge win on the road! Huge!

It is obvious to most Jazz fans that we are not the same team that was run off the floor by this Denver Nuggets team a few weeks ago.  They have since found their emotional leader,and who I believe should be the Jazz captain, Paul Millsap. They have learned to share the ball, found their identity as a scrappy, defensive group that won’t back down.
From @HPbasketball

Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25), Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov (25) from Russia and Paul Millsap (24) go after a loose ball during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Important Game Notes--- Favors left the game at halftime with a sprained ankle.
The Jazz missed Howard last night, but the bench came in and did a very nice job filling in. Millsap took over in the fourth quarter and was getting love from everyone, including Al Jefferson. Via @Clintonite33

(AP Photo)

High Notes:

Paul Millsap is approaching all-star level right now. I don’t know if he will make the team, probably not, because he never gets his due. Last night Millsap took over the fourth quarter circa the “Miracle in Miami.” He was doing it with a wide range of shots, the step back, the up and under, the put back, the screen slip, the fade away, the 17 footer, and finally the dunk. At one point in the fourth quarter Millsap scored 14 straight outscoring Denver 14-6 during that span.

The bench continues to be a spark, led by Alec Burks’ 10 points and Earl Watson’s 7 assists. With Josh Howard being out for the game the Jazz would need someone else to step up. And Burks answered the call. He provided energy and was a highlight reel when in the game. At one point in the second quarter he scored 5 straight points getting to the rim in athletic fashion.

Hayward put together yet another solid performance scoring 19. He made late game contributions worth noting as well, including two key defensive rebounds and scoring the Jazz final four points helping the Jazz to seal the deal. Hayward who is finding his stroke was an efficient 7-11 from the floor including 1-2 from deep. He was extremely active on the defensive end as well ending the night with a steal and two blocks.

(AP Photo)

The Jazz got yet another solid contribution from Raja Bell, who is continuing to be stingy on the defensive end. While he is not shooting the ball particularly well his defensive energy has been undeniable. He had a block and was constantly hounding Afflalo all night. While Afflalo had 16 points he didn't shoot the ball particularly well and had 4 turnovers. Raja continues to be aggressive defensively and both he and Hayward were active all night, hounding and frustrating the Denver wings. Afflalo and Gallinari were a combined 6-16 on the night.

(AP Photo)

Low Lights:

Derrick Favors left the game late in the second quarter with a left ankle sprain and did not return in the second half. Favors continues to struggle while on the floor going only 1-3 in his short stint before leaving the game. Favors minutes have fluctuated as of late partly due to the outstanding play of Millsap and Jefferson. But it continues to be a “good” problem when the starters for the Jazz continue to play extremely well making it hard to distribute minutes. Favors will need to be efficient in his time on the floor to sustain minutes.

CJ continues to struggle with consistency, scoring just 4 points in 15 minutes of play on 1-5 shooting after scoring 17 points in 18 minutes on Saturday. CJ continues to struggle from outside, still unable to find his stroke.

As always seems to be the case in Denver, the free throw disparity continues to be a bit of a mystery. Denver went to the line 39 times to the Jazz’ 20. The game was very physical and chippy, but It’s obvious that there was some serious home cooking. One player who continues to struggle to gain favor in the site of referees is Hayward, as he continues to get the whistle against him on the offensive end. While on the defensive end his man Gallinari went to the line 12 times to lead all players. All things said Denver struggled at the line only capitalizing on 66% of those opportunities while the Jazz drained 70% of theirs.

What is quite obvious after last nights performance is that this is not the same Utah Jazz team that gave up 68 points in the paint in route to a 17 point loss in Denver three weeks ago. They’ve found their defensive groove and are gelling on offense behind the consistent play of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.

Defense is their identity. Defense wins them games. And they will continue to play hard on the defensive end.