Some people did not see Apocalypto -- and thus, will not get the reference. Jaguar Paw is the name of the protagonist in this movie, which is essentially a 'chase' movie. Jaguar Paw and his buddies are from a small market community (the 801), brutalized (by lots of injuries), and taken captive (lose home court) and led to a slaughter in some big spooky city (Denver) to appease dark, remorseless Gods (the refs) as loosely willing participants in a blood sacrifice (The Western Conference Playoffs). Also the 'good guys' are painted blue when in the alien, spooky city -- like the Jazz road uniforms. If all of this still fails to make sense just watch the trailer here.
Jaguar Paw ends up going on a one man mission to escape the doom all around him in one piece -- only to turn the tables on his pursuers (many of which sport tattoos) when they chase him into his home. (The Delta Center!) This is, essentially, what Deron Williams needs to do in Games 3 and 4. He needs to keep running; and attacking; and never giving up -- which is what Jaguar Paw did, and what Deron did in Game 2.
For more thoughts on this game . . . well . . . single left click below . . .
The game wasn't perfect, and the refs made sure that it wasn't pretty -- but the 114-111 win (and more importantly, series tie at 1-1) is something I will gladly take. A part of all of us died on the inside when Memo went down in Game 1. I did not like this match-up going into the series, especially how the Jazz played against the Nuggets in the regular season -- but the Jazz sucked it up, did not wallow in self-pity -- and managed to get a playoff road win, on the home court of one of the BEST home teams in the NBA. (And, lest the media forget to mention, the Jazz aren't a good road team) To do so without two starters (and really poor depth, on paper), makes this a pretty sweet win.
Of course, the personal cherry on top for me would be Fesenko getting the start, not fouling out, changing shots, and getting two dunks with supreme authority. (And elbowing Carmelo Anthony was kind of cool too)
As Ross Siler (@tribjazz on twitter) was quick to point out, the game was decided with Fes on the bench. Of course, the boxscore suggests that Fes' +10 was the best out of both teams (if you follow the +/- stat), and the Jazz don't win this game if they're not up big in the 1st half (when Fes did most of his damage). Furthermore, it is my personal opinion that the Denver Nuggets (who were killing the Jazz with drives, drives and dishes, and post ups) were way more successful in the paint with Fes out of the game than with him in it. Denver got back into the game with these scores in the paint. Maybe if Fes doesn't pick up two dumb fouls (the 3rd one in the 2nd half, his 5th over-all, was not a dumb one, but the correct type of foul you want in the playoffs when a rookie guard tries to get a layup and you are 7'1 and 300 lb.) he plays a bit more in the 3rd and Denver has a harder time going on a 14-0 run?
Who is to say?
Deron Williams, or Jaguar Paw if you choose, was the main man tonight (as he should be every night) and had over 20 points at halftime and 7 assists. He did not take over in the 3rd (missing layups, taking jumpers with too much time on the clock and no Jazz players in rebounding position), but was money with the game on the line. Charles Barkley pointed out (on TNT's post game show) that if you let Deron assess the situation on the court, he'll make the right move. Of course, that's not how he said it -- but that's what he meant to say. The "drive and draw the defense" he performed in the 4th with the Jazz down by 1 lead to a great pass to an open Kyle Korver for a game changing three. That pass was like a surgical strike, it was so precise. It was so perfect that the Pentagon wants to send Deron over to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in the off-season to take out high risk targets. Jazz fans were spoiled by the super efficiency of John Stockton's play -- but Deron has been more than holding his own in this playoff series. He finished with 33 and 14 -- on some pretty ridiculous shooting from the field.
I felt like Boozer and Millsap underperformed in Game 1. So I was that much more pleased with their combined efforts in this game: 38 points (15-25 fg, 14 Free Throws attempted), and 20 rebounds.That's not too shabby at all. Boozer's fatality put-back dunk was so good I had to wake up my sleeping neighbors in my celebration of it. (Gotta love these late TV games when you live in the Eastern Standard time zone) You can do a lot worse than rolling with Boozer and 'Sap to close out a game. I was happy with their performance.
On a night when Wes Matthews goes 1-7 it's good to have a gunslinger like Kover come off the bench and go 5-7 (with 1 three) and 2-3 at the FT line in a close game. He started to straight up 'cook' whomever was supposed to be guarding him on those pin-downs in the corner. He was locked into the game, loud, demonstrative and full of 'win' with his heady play to collect charges on the Nuggets with the game on the line. He also was able to advance the ball up court on occasion, under the stress of the Nuggets full-court defense. He was alive, active and hitting his shots -- everything we need him to be with the Jazz so thin on veteran ability right now.
Odds and Ends:
- Turn overs were pretty big all game long. The Jazz were stinking it up early (my personal favorite was Fes spazzing out and throwing the ball through Deron Williams instead of actually passing it to him), but with the way the final parts of the game were a series of charges being called the Jazz can't complain with how it all shaked up. The Jazz finished with 18 turn overs, and the Nuggets 17.
- Three point shooting was a key factor -- Denver shot only 22.2% from deep. That makes a huge difference in a game where the final score is determined by a margin of only 3 points.
- Like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings, every creature - no matter how big or small - had a part to play in this win. Kosta Koufos got his own miss in the 3rd quarter, and managed to get a 2nd chance to score. And he did! Right before the 24 second clock went off. I'm not expecting him to flat out dunk on people, but not getting blocked by Johan Petro is something I expect. He failed, but had the hustle, grit and determination to collect himself and give it another try -- and he did good by me. His 2 points helped tie the series up.
- I hated these refs. They were inconsistent with how they called the game. What a foul actually *is* changed almost every 8 minutes of game time. Some stretches left both teams scratching their heads as a flurry of ticky-tack fouls were called. Other stretches left both teams complaining to the refs for non-calls after missed layups. It's more than just fouls though, the refs were missing simple things like "who tipped the ball out of bounds last", "where the no-charge zone actually starts from", and if you are a Denver fan "where does a player have to step for it to be called out of bounds". If anything, the refs were only consistent in drawing the ire of BOTH fan bases. (Which is a really hard thing to do)
- As a result, I'm pretty sure David Stern and the NBA fun police are drafting a memo right now to tell whomever is going to ref Game 3 and 4 to "cool it on the whistle, guys". Expect more physical play, and many less free throws. This may also mean never seeing Paul Millsap go to the line again in our lifetimes. But it also means that Fes' audition as a (restricted) free agent can last a little longer.
- Last note (ooh, musical theme for musically named team) (don't nobody steal this!), it was very refreshing to see a Jazz center actually dunk the ball with authority. Memo gets up at times with two hands, but after years of watching Eaton dunk without jumping; Felton Spencer get blocked; Greg Ostertag *miss* dunks; Jarron Collins try layups and Olden Polynice bobble the ball out of bounds -- Fes' dunking ability is a sight for sore eyes. . . . now only if he learned how to play the game . . . .