18 March 2012
(Paul Fraughton | The Salt Lake Tribune) - Left
(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images) - Right
The impending trade deadline may have left the Utah Jazz a little flat earlier this week when they offered little to nothing on the defensive end during a rout in Phoenix that didn't really look that much like a rout by the numbers. In the aftermath of that deadline, as nothing at all happened, Jazz fans had something to feel a little "meh" about. In the games that followed however, Jazz fans have gotten something to feel a lot "hell yeah!" about. Younger players and veterans alike have been pulled together to finish games decisively, albeit not in regulation. While the Jazz beat the improved (and now Rubio-less) Timberwolves at full strength, they succeeded in surviving the Warriors without the significant support of thier leading scorer, Al Jefferson.
The battle for the final playoff spot in the west is white hot right now. Phoenix and Utah are each only a game and-a-half out of eighth place and Minnesota is only two games out. Clearly, as every media outlet that covers the Jazz has pointed out, every game counts. The game against Minnesota counted more.
With only three games against the Timberwolves in this truncated season, Thursday's game would grant the victor the tiebreak in case of a possible deadlock for the eight seed. Minnesota has in its pocket season series wins against Houston and Portland with Phoenix yet to be decided. After some theatrical basketball in Utah on Thursday, Minnesota lost the season series against the Jazz, a fact that is significantly playoff relevant.
As is often the case with overtime victories the most important moments of the game happened in the last few seconds of regulation and the resultant five minutes of extra basketball.
A sign of progress against Minnesota.
Ty Corbin doesn't have plays for closing games. It isn't a coaching deficiency, it's an experience deficiency. The play our rookie coach drafted up at the end of regulation against Minnesota was good enough to be discussed on SportsCenter and in The Daily regardless of the fact that Paul Millsap missed the crucial layup. Corbin created something beautiful that cleared space for an imbounds pass play to Millsap at the bucket for the win. The ball just didn't fall. The fact that Ty Corbin called a play that was highlight worthy if effective and still discussion worthy while it wasn't should make Jazz fans unbelievably happy. Our young guys are clearly growing. So is our head coach.
An overtime victory against Minnesota.
Tied at 105-105 with 1:14 left in OT Paul Millsap began his redemption explosion. Paul Millsap picked a pass to Kevin Love, Harris recovered and tossed the ball over his shoulder like an apple core, to Millsap who dished it to Hayward for the huge slam dunk. Jazz up two. After a Hayward recovered a missed Webster three ball, Harris found Millsap off the pick and pop at the top of the key who knocked down a sweet jumper with :19 left. Jazz up four. Immediately thereafter, Paul Millsap picked off the inbounds pass to Kevin Love forcing the Timberwolves to foul after a twenty second time out. Hayward converts both free throws. Jazz up six. Victory!
We call it, Raising the Roof.
The game last night against Golden State came with it the usual burden of proving something against Mark Jackson and the additional burden of proving that the Jazz are capable of grabbing victory from an opponent without the consistent offensive barrage of support from Al Jefferson.
A sign of progress against Golden State
The fourth quarter heroics of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Devin Harris put the Jazz back in the game they lost control of late against Nate Robinson and the Warriors. It was big defense and unbelievable offense, strung together, that kept the Jazz in the game and put them in a position to dominate Golden State in overtime. Starting with a monster block to recover the steal which translated into full court Gordon Hayward fastbreak madness at the 2:30 mark in the fourth, the Jazz executed a series of powerhouse plays kept Energy Solutions Arena on their feet: Click to see the Gordon Hayward dominate on both ends. After a huge shot from Devin Harris with 41 seconds left in regulation to tie it up, Nate Robinson knocked down a brutal three pointer. With 30 seconds left in the game, down three, Favors set the pick, rolled into a Harris pass and slammed the ball home right in Andris Biedrins' face for the and 1. The young pieces are coming together. On a night when the best show of support for Big Al in his time of grief was to show up and be a beast in the post, Favors did just that. 23 points, 1 block , 1 steal and 2 assists. Epic. Sadly the jazz couldn't close it out the the fourth.
An overtime victory against Golden State
Unlike the victory against Minnesota, there was never really any equilibrium as far as the score is concerned. Favors opened the quarter with a free throw line jumper, Gordon Hayward followed with the spot up jumper. Jazz lead by four. Favors recovers a fumble under the hoop by Millsap and puts it up and in for two. Jazz lead by four and force a Golden State timeout with 3:21 left. Millsap tips in the fall away jumper miss by favors and puts the Jazz back up six at 2:41. Millsap knocks the long elbow jumper down at 1:55 to give the Jazz an eight point lead. Millsap takes it to the rack for two more, gets slapped in the face on a despicable no call, and put Utah up 10. After a late three from Robinson Jazz get the 7 point victory and back to back home wins in overtime. No Al Jefferson, no Earl Watson, no Raja Bell
The Jazz have gone from 0-2 to 2-2 in overtime play this year in three days, and climbed back up to .500 in the same span of time. A tough rest of the season lies ahead, but if these last two games are any indicator of how the Jazz will perform in games with extra playoff significance, there exists a real possibility that after only one year of not making the post season, the Jazz may make an appear anew.
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