On the second night of a back to back the most amazing things happened for the Utah Jazz – their starters all showed up in the same game! This is the first time that all five starters made the same Jazz Quintet. I’m very impressed because they all had very important games against a Western Conference rival, the always well behaved Denver Nuggets.
After the jump – a breakdown of their play from last game!
Paul Millsap: This guy just continues to get better and better. He put the Jazz on his back last night and had a very Karl Malone like stretch in crunch time where he scored all of our points. I mean it, from the 9:48 mark in the fourth quarter to the 3:51 mark the only Jazz player to score was Paul Millsap. Before he scored the Jazz were up 87-81, and after his last score the Jazz were up 95-85. By himself he more than held serve with the entire Nuggets team, and took a 6 point lead, and over the course of half the fourth quarter, increased the lead to 10. I mean it, check out the play by play for the fourth quarter yourself. Thrillsap also added 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. His 63.2 fg% doesn’t even begin to explain how he was scoring though. This wasn’t a Deron Williams drive and dish to an open Carlos Boozer for a 16 footer. This was Paul getting the rock off a post up, or off of a face up from 18 feet – and having him just take whomever was defending him to school. Pivots, upfakes, and finishes with contact in the paint were met move for move with off the bounce hesitation moves, and step back jumpers with his man all over him. This Jazz team is at their best when Paul Millsap is playing like an All-Star.
Al Jefferson: Which makes Al Jefferson’s life so much easier – he’s used to being the one and only option on offense, but when the other team has someone else to worry about, Big Al can sneak in and get offensive rebounds and good shot attempts with less defensive pressure. In a way, Millsap’s play is a direct product of Al Jefferson taking the reigns of the offense early in the first half. Big Al was making all the outside shots I never want him to take, while still keeping the defense honest in the paint. That allowed for Denver to over-play him, and gave Millsap all the room in the world to operate. Jefferson also had a double double, 18 and 12, and added 2 blocks and 1 assist. Jefferson cooled off in the second half, but that’s okay, because Millsap went absolutely nuclear on the Nuggets.
Devin Harris: Remember Devin Harris, the All-Star? Well, Harris continues to reforge his game from a shoot first guy to a guy who knows when to get his team involved. He did score 10 points, nailing 2 threes in the process; however, it was his astounding 7 to 1 assist to turn over ratio that deserves significant mention. Wow. His 2 steals were icing on the cake – and he did it all in 25 minutes.
Gordon Hayward: Rollercoaster Hayward continues to go up and down with each passing night. Tonight Hayward was making shots, and even attacked the basket! He finished with 19 points (2nd most on the team), off of 7/13 shooting. He made 1 three and got to the free throw line 6 times. Of course, he added 5 rebounds, 3 assists (though 2 turnovers), 2 blocks, and 1 steal. We’re going to need his secondary playmaking and penetrating skills the rest of the season – and all of that is set up by his outside shooting.
Raja Bell: The difference between how Raja is playing now compared to the beginning of the season is the difference between the first Godfather movie and the third Godfather movie. The first Godfather movie is a classic, and the third is a film we all try to pretend didn’t exist. Similarly so, right now we’re getting classic Raja Bell; while at the beginning of the season we were getting some of his most forgettable moments night after night. Raja only had 7 points (1 three pointer), 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and 1 block; but his major contributions are on defense – by making his man miss shots. When he was defending Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Arron Afflalo, and Rudy Fernandez – that crew only made one shot when Bell was defending them. They shot a combined 12 for 35 (34.3 fg%); Raja wasn’t on them for all of their shots, but when we was on them, they didn’t really score. That’s why he’s on the floor, I guess. And he’s earning it.