10 January 2012
(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
Sometimes a front court burns so bright it quite simply explodes and with explosions of such proportion come casualties. Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors had fouled out of the game before all was said and done but their charismatic offense and stifling defensive presence took the compelling young Cleveland Cavaliers out with them.
The Jazz, led by astonishingly efficient big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, stunted the impressive performance of the first pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, Kyrie Irving, and showed hungry Utah Jazz fans the first performance of the season truly worthy of our legendary home court advantage. While there were certainly still moments to pause and ponder with concern, the end result was one to be pleased with, not only because of the win, but also because of the great team basketball put on display at Energy Solutions Arena.
The First Quarter: Where Paul Millsap Carries the Utah Jazz
It seemed like Paul Millsap couldn't miss in the first quarter and with good reason. Paul Millsap didn't miss in the first quarter. And while new father Raja Bell couldn't get his shot to drop early it seemed like every Cavalier could. A Cav would score, then 'Sap would score. On and on it went until with about three minutes left in the quarter two of Utah's other significant contributors would step in. Favors slammed a big bucket home in the first few seconds of his game and Josh Howard got his first points off of a beautiful up and under off of a full court pass from Earl Watson.
Millsap continued to own at both ends with a huge block at the two minute mark and both Favors and Kanter showed some serious defensive comittment towards the end of the quarter.
Cap all of this off with a dope buzzer beater from Earl Watson that left the Jazz up one going into the second.
The Cavs' bright spots came from both Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson who showed offensive flair and rough edges that kept the Cavs neck and neck with Utah.
The Second Quarter: Where the Offensive Fouls Flowed like (Root) Beer
Early in the quarter Enes Kanter was trying to get his hands on the ball as often as possible and every other Jazz man was drawing offensive fouls. Alec Burks (aka Alex Burk and Eric Burks) showed his size advantage when he drove to the basket, pulled back from his defender and got off an agile shot around the ten minute mark. Josh Howard continued to earn his keep, creating offensive opportunities by blasting it into an able Kanter in the post and creating his own offense when necessary.
Paul Millsap checked back in and immediately drew an offensive foul on Alonzo Gee, getting him out of the game and reducing the Cavs offensive options. And after Varejao tried to show some fancy footwork and stumbled his way to a turnover, Paul Millsap was able to stay tight and maintain a perfect FG% going into the half. Nonetheless the Jazz missed numerous opportunities to blow the game open in their favor.
Tristan Thompson looked herky-jerky out on the floor but got to the rim when he willed himself to do so. I don't question why he went fourth in last years' draft, there is a diamond in that rough.
The Third Quarter: Where the Jazz Continue to Stuggle
An elbow to Devin Harris' head proved to be a fair metaphor for the Jazz's third quarter which although not truly woeful, was certainly lack luster. Al Jefferson's touch continued to amaze us as he snagged his double double early in the quarter. Raja Bell found his game again, responding to a beautiful layup from Kyrie Irving by driving elegantly to the basket. Al and Raja seemed to have taken the load from 'Sap but Kyrie Irving demonstrated astonishing promise and agility and contribuited to the Cavs' only winning quarter this game around a slightly dazed looking Jazz offense.
The Jazz stayed alive on the efforts of their bigs, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap were an incredible 17 of 21 from the floor at around the 3:30 mark but absent any serious defense the quarter was a scorefest and the Cavs stayed alive.
The Fourth Quarter: Where there Weren't Two Techs, but there Really Were
Front court muscial chairs abounded for the Jazz in the fourth as both Favors and Millsap coasted toward fouling out of the game, but not before pushing the Jazz to a ten point lead. First time viewers of a Jazz game would wonder why 'Sap isn't a perennial All Star as he racked up the last of his 19 points on 90% shooting and others would ponder Al Jefferson's All Star potential as he secured the 30th point of his game on 13 of 17 shooting.
Recalled double techs on Anthony Parker and Byron Scott warmed the wax that CJ Miles pressed into the envelope to seal the deal with a sweet dagger three ball with 36 seconds remaining. Ty Corbin knew what alot of us may not have, that CJ Miles was +14 tonight. Leaving him on the floor was prescient and likely sealed the deal for Utah. I'm calling it a "Doe Dagger", PETA objects.
Final Score: 105-113, Jazz win.
- CJ Miles is a really solid player when its clear he isn't thinking about anything but basketball.
- Josh Howard was a steal at twice the price. I hope we aren't just a launchpad for his rebirth. He'd be a great permanent addition to this franchise.
- Our bigs will be the envy of the league in a couple years, if not sooner. Kanter and Favors are earnest, eager and hungry.
- The Cavs are going to be a pretty compelling product in a few years... Dan Gilbert may not have the last laugh, but things don't look as bleak as they should in Ohio.
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