Thank goodness for inexperience. The Wolves had this one wrapped up and sitting under the tree with a big bow on it and then... well... they did whatever you would do to lose that present. I don't know, they gave it to someone else. That analogy was working well up to that point.
Either way, they had it, they lost it (though I don't know how you lose a Christmas present, maybe Santa took it back; I don't know) and now they will have a very un-Merry Christmas. There.
I say thank goodness for the inexperience on the Wolves part because that's how the Jazz were able to pull out a win tonight.
Another slow, pitiful start doomed the Jazz early. Jumpers weren't falling and Minnesota was daisy chaining three-pointers down on Utah. The Jazz had a fever and the only prescription was more jumpers apparently. That didn't work though and they got down big in the first, 29-20.
They were able to match the Wolves over the next two quarters, even getting the lead back down to 4 with 7:46 left in the third. A Wesley Johnson three, a layup by Kevin Love, and a Ridnour jumper pushed the lead back to 11.
It went back and forth like that when with 3:05 left in the game, another Ridnour jumper put the Wolves up 101-94. The next series of plays was the turning point in the game. Deron drove and may have been bumped by Beasley. That caused a bad shot and a loose ball.
A few things should have been called on this possession. First, you could argue that Deron was fouled. It's arguable, so we'll let it go. Two things that were pretty cut and dry though were the infractions that were missed on Beasley. One, after he secured the ball, he took two steps and then a third. That should have a been a travel there.
That third step though was an additional infraction as his right toe was on the line. Then it looked like Deron made a play for the ball but there was never possession lost. Beasley then proceeded to take two more steps before passing the ball out to Ridnour.
This is where the inexperience kicked in for the Wolves. Deron was down on the floor under the basket so Ridnour pushed the ball. As he was getting into the lane, he tried to kick it out to Wesley Johnson standing out on the three-point line. Millsap though got a hand on it and the Jazz were quickly running the other way. Sap got it out to Hayward who then threw it ahead to Deron who was still on the other half of the court.
Johnson attempted to block the shot by Deron but ended up giving him the three-point play. He should have either let him go or foul him hard enough where he couldn't get the shot up. That was a momentum swinger.
The next offensive possession for Minnesota ended up being a fall-away off-balance jumper by Martell Webster that was off the iron. Instead of getting back on defense, he fouled Millsap who had corralled the rebound. That put Sap on the line and of course stopped the clock.
Luke Ridnour decided on the next trip down that the best shot they could get was a pick and roll and putting up a three with 10 seconds to go on the shot clock. Not one other player on the team touched the ball.
After two Jefferson buckets that were sandwiched between two Millsap AND-1s, the Jazz were up 1, 108-107. Minnesota drew up a good play and Martell Webster got a good look at a three from the top of the key but it was off. The clincher for the Jazz came when Millsap grabbed the board and instead of fouling immediately, the Wolves let him clear it out to Deron, who got it to Bell, who found a streaking Gordon Hayward for the dunk and the foul.
One, they should have fouled Millsap and two they should have let Hayward go if he was going up for the shot. There was plenty of time left on the clock where they could have run another play and got up another three.
A win is a win is a win is a win. I just don't know how many more double-digit comebacks I can take. Let's take a look at the players:
Al picked a fine time to have his biggest half of the season. He struggled in the first half from the field but poured it on in the second. 21 points on 9/12 shooting after the break and finished with 23, 9 & 7. The 7? 7 blocks. I don't know if he had a bit of an advantage on them after going up against Love and Darko in practice, but it certainly didn't hurt. Those 7 blocks are a career-high for Big Al.
He kept the Jazz in the game late with back to back jumpers. The push/weezy/hooker was dropping tonight. If that shot is falling, we are in good shape.
I think the trade had worked out well for everyone.
Once again Sap was the constant for the Jazz on the night. He matched Al's 23 going 10/16 from the field while pulling down 11 boards. The last one was the clincher. He had two remarkable AND-1 plays late in the game. The first tied the game (despite what Booner said) and the second one did give the Jazz the lead.
The first came after a head fake and a drive and a nice reverse layup from the right baseline. The second came when Hayward found him cutting to the basket from the top of the key. He was able to knock down the defender in the restricted area and still get the ball in the hoop.
Sap has been as steady as they come all season.
He had just the one shot, but what a shot it was. The game-clinching dunk was a bit of an exclamation point on his play for the night. It's odd to see someone come in for the last 12 minutes of the game that not only hasn't played all game, but has only played 2 minutes the last two games combined.
He still isn't looking to shoot the ball. He did have 3 nice assists and pulled down three boards. His hustle and work has always been there. I think what you want most out of this appearance is some confidence for the kid. He has that now, let's see how it carries over.
Deron pitched a tent at the free-throw line and camped there most of the night. He was 13-14 from the line (the lone loss coming at the end of the game). His shooting was off again though he still finished with a game-high 25 points on 6/19 shooting. Add 7 boards, 7 assists, and 2 steals and that's a pretty solid night.
He only played 5 minutes which I thought was weird given our rebounding woes and toughness. I don't think he's in the dog-house, Sloan just rode Al most of the night (41 minutes).
Fess took up the other 2 minutes at the C position and made almost as many free throws in one trip to the line (2) as he's made all year (3). Fessitvus is a real holiday.
I consider it a great victory that the Jazz were able to hold him to under 20 rebounds. His 19 boards were still above his season average but the fact he didn't go for 30 is pleasing. I'm not sure what more you can ask of a player. He could improve on D but right now he's more than making up for that.
Both of these teams foul a lot and tonight was no different. There were 54 fouls called and 73 free-throws (44 for the Jazz). That's the only thing that kept the Jazz respectable in the first half.
For a comparison, the Jazz are averaging 25 free-throw attempts a game this season.
The Jazz were able to get Sloan win # 1,200. Here is Sloan's quote after the game as best as I could transcribe:
"I'm more proud of the win. I'm not into numbers and stuff like that; I never had been. I've had a great organization to work for that's given me an opportunity to stay there for a long time. I'm very thankful for that. And the coaches that I have to work with me. It's not about me."I wasn't expecting anything more.
- The three-point shooting for the Jazz was abysmal. They were 1/10 on the night. Utah is 3-7 when hitting between 1-3 three-pointers.
- This was the 10th time that the Jazz have come back to win after being down 10 this season. It's the 6th time they've done it when being down 15.
- I liked AK's trick pass in the lane where he was pretending to go up with it but instead shuffled it Jefferson underhand.
- Jazz don't play again until Monday the 27th.
- Canis Hoopus
Gordon Hayward's dagger dunk (via outsidethenba)