March 20, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins (5) fouls Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) during the second half at Energy Solutions Arena. The Jazz defeated the Thunder 97-90. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
Four straight wins, including the last two against the #3 and #1 seed in the West is impressive for this Jazz. But the best part is that the young guys are making some very meaningful contributions. Last night none of them were stellar offensively, but all of them did some great things, but all of them held serve. When they entered the game in the last few minutes of the 3rd, they managed to carry the momentum and stretch the Jazz lead out to 7.
Some of the best moments of last night came after the game, in the Jazz locker room. Twitter was abuzz after the post game interviews with Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson. First, Favors was asked about people doubting his ability and he got a little peeved. He stated that he thinks about all the things people said when he was drafted and during his time with the Nets and that it pisses him off. I think we all can agree that we have seen some fire out of Favors this year. We can also agree that he is very good at keeping his cool, which is one of the reasons he was so great in the final moments of the games against the Warriors and Lakers.
Next, Big Al said some really great things about how much he cares for his teammates and how he has never been a part of a team that was completely united. He mentioned the rift that existed between the vets and the young guys and how that simply does not exist in the Jazz locker room dynamic. Then came the really great part, as Al talked about how great Sap has been as the closer and that there was no reason to change that, so he when Coach Ty set up a play to run for Jefferson in the closing minutes, Al asked that it go to Sap. The result? Sap takes Ibaka off the dribble, from the low post and drains an 8 foot jumper with 1:20 left, to put the jazz up by 6.
Thanks to @travrust, who promised to have both of these interviews up on KFAN's website, you can listen to both of the interviews:
**Also, Moni has transcript of the interviews on her site, along with her unique game recap here
Speaking of Al, I he has done a wonderful job of evolving as a player in his time here. There have been naysayers all along the way, but his defense has improved over his time in Minnesota and his ast% is at a career high 12.4%. The one area that he should work on improving next is his offensive efficiency. Look for a post this afternoon on one of the ways he can help himself to do that.
As a whole, the Jazz have improved their defense during this current winning streak. They have a DRTG of 97.4 (points allowed per possession) and only allow opponents to shoot an average of 43%. This type of defense is what allowed them to have such a great January and if they really are committed to this #playoffpush, they have to be dedicated to continuing to play this well and get themselves back into, at least, the middle of the pack in the league, defensively.
A big chunk of the praise must go to Gordon Hayward and CJ Miles. Just now, the TBJ guys gave huge props to GH for his defense, but CJ deserves a lot of the credit. Both have been amazing against the top two scorers in the league after Durant went for a miserable 27% last night.
If the Jazz do make the playoffs, which team do you think really wants nothing to do with a series against this Jazz team and why?