Tonight's offense in one sentence: Al Jefferson had 30 points on 17 shots and he was only the third most efficient big man offensively.
Tonight's defense in one sentence: At one point in the 3rd quarter, the Jazz were shooting 64% from the field with 46 points in the paint and they were only up by 3 points.
What Paul Millsap started tonight, Al Jefferson was able to finish. Millsap came out guns a blazin' by going 6 for 6 with 12 points in the first 8 minutes of the game, while Al Jefferson corraled 5 rebounds in the period. Millsap got into foul trouble and only finished with 19 points on just 10 shots, but Al Jefferson and Josh Howard took over the scoring load in the 3rd and 4th quarters.
Jefferson finished with 30 points, 12 rebounds, and a John Stocktonesque 3 assists, leading his team to a victory in what was probably his best overall game in a Jazz uniform ever. There is a lot of season to play, but Jefferson has been much improved so far this year in many ways on the court, including his decision making, and his defensive rotations. So far Jefferson hasn't silenced his critics in Utah, but he certainly has given them a proverbial pacifier a time or two.
josh Howard finished with 17 points, 11 of those coming in the final stanza, as you can almost see the minds of Jazz fans all over the state being changed with every game that Howard plays. Howard brings toughness to the team more than anything and an ability to finish games. Howard is currently the Jazz's best scorer in the 4th period measured by total points. I, for one am not surprised that Howard has played this well in a Jazz uniform, but I still question the necessity of a guy like Howard on a team, he may help get from 25-30 wins. But with every passing day, the Jazz are trying to change my mind about them making the playoffs. I predicted that Jazz fans would feel about both Howard and Tinsley the way they feel about Earl Watson when the season ends and so far that is happening. Most fans love Howard's game. There isn't a Jazz fan who can say that Josh Howard hasn't helped the team win ball games.
The Jazz defense was certainly subpar tonight, allowing rookie Kyrie Irving to keep his team in the game and sending the Cavaliers to the free throw line 43 times. If Cleveland had've been able to make a few more free throws, the outcome of the game might have been different.
Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors:
Cerberus combined for 63 points, 20 rebounds, and 4 blocks on 27-33 shooting from the field. Nothing much more to say than that.
Eleven points in the fourth quarter, toughness and an ability to defend late in games. Howard has done it again. Howard also has the 2nd best +/- differential on the team as a whole, only behind Eric Burks.
Hayward didn't have a great night shooting, but he didn't force things either, instead playing facilitator recording a career high 8 assists. Hayward showed his tremendous versatility and his ability to do the little things that don't always show up in the box score. Right now, it's hard to think of many better point forwards in the game.
The Jazz defense:
The Cleveland Cavaliers aren't going to be the worst team in the league, like I suspected, but letting them stay in the game for as long as they did was dissappointing for a defense that has looked much improved from last year. But a win is a win as my Jazz fan friends often remind me.
Big test tomorrow night as the Lake show comes to town.