Last night the Jazz had an up and down game. Or more precisely, a down and up and down game: the Utah Jazz were but 3 seconds from being down 12 at halftime to the NBA Champs, but then clawed their way back to enter the 4th quarter tied, at home, and with the ball in your hands. For a young team that everyone in the national media thought would win 5 games this season – it is a great spot to be in. And the Jazz wouldn’t have even been in this game against the Dallas Mavericks if it wasn’t for these five guys.
After the jump – a breakdown of their play from last game!
Al Jefferson: Big Al was one board shy of yet another double double, and he is still very much so the straw that stirs the Jazz drink. This was evident when there wasn’t any off-the ball movement during the first half and he was relegated to making tough jumper after tough jumper over taller guys (Brendan Haywood, Ian Mahinmi). That’s not where I want Al to take his shots from (outside of the paint), but he was making them – and he was single handedly keeping us within striking distance back when the rest of the team seemed to be sleepwalking. Al chipped in 2 assists and 2 steals (no blocks, but really, it’s not like his dudes were shooting the ball – a combined 5 FGA); however, as the straw that stirs the drink he did stop stirring in the last 2 minutes of the game. Or the offense shut down and just expected him to make something out of nothing. It’s hard to say. He did shoot under 50%, but a lot of that was the Mavs defense.
Earl Watson ( @Earl_Watson): Earl continues to fill the leadership void on this team. He’s a floor general, but he’s more than just a field commander. He sees the whole battle, and fights for every inch. We saw a lot of this in the game against the Los Angeles Clippers – and we saw even more of this last night against the Dallas Mavericks. Sure, in 24 minutes he finished with 5 times as many points as Devin Harris, and 3.5 times as many assists . . . but it’s more than just numbers with Earl. What makes him great is his play. Production is an afterthought when he’s sticking up for young players and getting in the face of MVPs. He should be team Capitan; however, I don’t think that kind of title would impress Earl. He wants to win, and that’s it.
Paul Millsap: Yes, Paul Millsap failed to dominate the game like we’re expecting him to. He shot a very pedestrian 6/16 last night (one point per shot), but let’s not forget that Dirk shot 5/12 last night and also finished with a rating of one point per shot. It was a defensive game and both teams had scouted how to defend the other teams’ biggest players. I think we’re not happy that Millsap didn’t have a monster game – but he did still win the head to head against Dirk. We didn’t get the win, but Dirk finished with 12 and 5, and 1 assist. Paul finished with 16 and 13, with 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. Paul got to the line more, and missed less three pointers than Dirk did. Also, Millsap had more offensive rebounds (8) than Dirk had total rebounds (5). Sap was working out there, he just didn’t have a 20/10 game.
C.J. Miles (@CJMiles34) : Mr. Calvin Miles Jr. is killing it with Josh Howard out right now (getting Howard was a head scratcher to me in the first place). He had another great night, 17 points off of 5/11 shooting, 6/6 at the free throw line, and 1/2 from deep. That adds up to 1.55 points per shot last night. And over the last four games, 57 points in 37 shots (again, 1.55 PPS). Also, in the last four games he’s gone to the line 17 times, and made all 17 of them. CJ gave the Jazz energy, penetration, defense, and fire last night. He finished with 3 boards, 2 steals, and a number of highlight jams. He lead the entire team in +/- last night, and had a value higher than some of the Mavericks starters –and those jerks won the game.
Gordon Hayward ( @GordonHayward): I’m getting sick and tired of Gordon having good shooting nights and poor shooting nights – but more than I, I know that Hayward is even more pissed. He was one of our more consistent weapons last season after the All-Star break, and I think he’s disappointed in himself so far this season. But the good news is that he’s having more and more good games, and fewer and fewer poor ones. Last night he shot 4/9, which is still only 44 fg%, but he did make some big shots when we needed them. He was also super active all over the floor, getting 3 rebounds, and 4 steals, 1 assist, and 1 block. Sure, at times he looked over matched having to defend former All-Stars Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom; but you get better by having a crack at something. Few young guys make the jump from passive observant to Top 100 player by never getting a chance to play in crunch time. As a starter in all these close games Hayward is getting exactly that. I really think the Jazz need to get him going early, and should run some plays for him to finish near the rim more, in the first half of games. He had a great coast-to-coast move, and I loved his aggressiveness.