Man, if Memo gets going, look out.
The Turk started out the game on fire and never let up. He had an array of dunks, a lot of dunks actually, and jumpers. From the opening possession when he took a pass from Deron and drove to the basket for the dunk, he looked like a different player than we've seen all season.
He had quarters of 8, 6, 9, and 5 points in 12, 5, 11, and 5 minutes respectively for a season-high 28 points. Maybe we should invite a Turkish delegation to every game. This is the Money man we've been waiting for all season. Let's hope he keeps it up.
The man who has been keeping it up all season is Andrei Kirilenko. I wasn't kidding when I said that he's in almost every highlight
He's been everywhere and tearing it up. Last night he added another 22 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. What more can you say about him? Check out his January and February numbers and his numbers as a starter. I've never seen him smile so much and just look like he's toying with players. He abused Martell Webster all night. The Jazz were sticking Andrei in the corner baseline and he would beat Webster on the the backdoor pass or drive right by him. Webster would try to keep an eye on him but as soon as he glanced away for a second, AK was gone and sitting under the basket for an easy two.
A recurring theme in the recent run is that while he's having good games, Deron isn't trying to do it all himself. He can have off shooting nights like last night but still control the game. One thing I noticed last night that is different is the way he's talking with teammates when someone didn't run the play right or something along those lines. As recently as a couple of months ago he would yell something at them and then walk away frustrated. Recently though he'll still go after the player but he's been giving them a high five/fist bump, or some other acknowledgment that everything is still cool. I like his leadership right now. I also like his 13 & 13.
Another theme has been everyone contributing and last night was no exception. Wes Matthews had another great game off the bench going perfect from the field (6-6) for 16 points and a couple of athletic layups. Millsap didn't get as many touches on offense with Memo playing the way he was but still had an effective 12 & 9 as well as 5 assists. CJ added 10 and Ronnie B had 8.
One thing that has to concern you about last night's game was the FG% discrepancy, the number of offensive rebounds the Jazz gave up. The Blazers shot 20 more field goals than the Jazz, 87-67. Utah shot 63% to Portland's 43% and had 5 more made field goals. The good news was that the Jazz didn't give up much inside to the Blazers and had them shooting mostly jumpers. Portland's 16 offensive boards had a lot to do with that. Some of those were just bounces that came their way and others were the one Blazer getting the board in a group of 4 white jerseys variety.
The most surprising stat of the night was the free throw shooting percentage of the Jazz. After shooting 74% on the year, they made 29/32 last night for 91%. That's good news on two fronts. One, they're attacking the basket and, and, getting calls. Deron showed that early as he pushed things quickly. He didn't convert on them but he set the tempo. Free throws, more than anything else, was probably the difference in the game. They helped overcome the FGA discrepancy between the teams and kept this from being a tighter game.
With Denver's loss last night, the Jazz are just 2 1/2 games back. Denver will play in LA on Friday night before heading here on Saturday. After Saturday night, the Jazz at worst would be 4 games back of the Nuggets. If all goes according to plan, they could be just 1 game back. This is the last we'll see of Denver, so it's our last shot at gaining on them directly.