I watched this game, as we all did, in real time and let my emotions rise and fall with each success and perceived injustice. For this game I had to leave the laptop aside, stand up, approach my TV, and yell. We're all fans at heart, and it is games like this which help reminds us why we are fans in the first place. Our Utah Jazz, the team that was supposed to be little more than a speed bump for the best teams in the conference, were tied with the World Champion Dallas Mavericks at 87 all, with less than three minutes to play in the game. A game where we were without our third leading scorer on the team (Josh Howard) due to injury; a game where our future centerpiece was ejected after only 10 minutes of action (Derrick Favors); a game where the other team shot the ball at a 52.1 fg% rate; a game where our starting point guard (Devin Harris) goes 0-7; a game where we let Shawn Marion and Rodigue Beaubois drop nearly 40 points on you; and a game where we still could have won . . .
. . . a game I just re-watched. You do not want to put too much on any one single regular season game; however, this game once again re-upped me to be a Jazz fan for life. I'm not happy that the Mavericks defeated us, on our own home court; however, the Jazz lost this game in a better fashion that we have in some of our previous wins. What does that mean? It means that tonight the Jazz played with fire, with passion, with confidence, and a never say die attitude. This team played hard, and in response, our fans cheered hard in return. The Jazz were down 12 to the team that won the title a few months ago. They could have collapsed like they did on national TV against the Lakers weeks ago. They did not. This Jazz team, this speed bump of a team, fought tooth and nail and despite all the problems - they were still close enough to knock out the defending champs. On national TV. Without our third best scorer. And while shooting only 38.8 fg% from the field.
I am super proud of our team. You never want to lose a game. But if this game had 'injury time' like soccer does, you just knew that we would have won it. The Jazz, and the Jazz fans, took everything the Mavs could dish out but the Jazz were never knocked out. What gave the game to Dallas wasn't them just being, inherently, better. They weren't. The Jazz defense held Dirk Nowitzki to 5/12 shooting (12 points); harassed Jason Kidd into 6 turn overs; and held onto the ball well enough so they only got 4 steals in the entire game (the Jazz had 11). Dallas has a very potent three point attack, and against the Jazz they went 5/20 from deep. The Mavs weren't a better team tonight, and they're not a better team if you look at the rankings. They just scored 3 more points than us, and we didn't get a chance to finish our final possession.
The Jazz "gave this game away" according to some. There were defensive breakdowns that a group of Hall of Famers picked apart when we had rookies in the game. Perhaps we're expecting too much of our team - they can't win every game. Perhaps we're expecting too much from our players as well; obviously, rookie Alec Burks isn't going to have the proprioceptive attention that Rajon Rondo has; or that Gordon Hayward can defend guys like Shawn Marion or Lamar Odom in the paint as well as Andrei Kirilenko is capable of. Lastly, perhaps we're expecting too much from our head coach? It's unreasonable to expect our team to be perfect over the course of a season. It's unreasonable to expect our players to be perfect from the start as well.
It's specifically unreasonable to expect our coach to be perfect too - this was his 42nd game as a head coach. Ever. That's only a game over a half a season. Tyrone Corbin, according to some people on twitter, is the reason why we lost tonight's game, and also why we lost the most recent game against the Los Angeles Lakers. I guess for some people we expect Ty to be perfect. While allowing for the players to make mistakes here or there. Sure, I would have wanted a time out against the Lakers in overtime for the last shot. And sure, I would have wanted to see him stick with the hot, pass-first, hand in Earl Watson to end this game. But we don't put the blame on the loss on Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap scoring a cumulative 14 for 34. Millsap and Jefferson started off their partnership very poorly, but now they are definitely in synch with one another. I think we need to be similarly patient with Ty Corbin before we unilaterally start blaming him for losing the game.
I love how when we were down we fought back. Earl Watson, Raja Bell, and other vets did not give up. And our younger players matched their energy and active defense led to fast break points. The Jazz were in this game, despite all the disadvantages; and we almost still beat the championship winning Dallas Mavericks.
And it's the fiery play of our team that has made me very proud of our players and coaches. More in-depth coverage of this game continues tomorrow: a longer recap; a new Jazz Quartet; and another downbeat coming your way.