NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 81:
Utah Jazz 96 @ Minnesota Timberwolves 80
No Joke By-line
We did it! We swept the Wolves! This is a big deal for me because . . . well . . . the Jazz had not swept the Wolves since 1998-99, and had only done so twice ever. Is this team as good as a Stockton and Malone team? No. But this team accomplished something that no team has done SINCE Stockton and Malone. In an up and down season I've missed a lot of the little things while looking at the big picture. These last few weeks I've taken it upon myself to find, understand, appreciate, and then champion more of the little things. This may seem entirely trivial to you; but to the new-Amar, this is something worth pointing out. Congrats to the 2012-2013 Jazz on doing something we had a lot of trouble doing over the last two plus decades of trying.
Looking more into the small picture (as in: the small picture = just this season; and not the entirety of Jazz history), this game was huge because it was a must win. And we got the win. It all started with a fantastic performance in the first quarter where the Jazz were up 16-2 at one point, wavered, but still managed to lead 26-18 after one. Al Jefferson did not dominate, but he did not have to in this game. Of course, he still owned his matchup against Greg Stiemsma and Dante Cunningham. Big Al scored when he had to in a variety of ways, sometimes one on one, other times off of smart cuts. More than anything else, he was scoring and finishing at the rim. That's where he's one of the best at the league at scoring; and he's become a much more dangerous option by doing that. You can look it up, but this recent playoff push hasn't been on the back of Jefferson's Jumper, it's been on his inside game. (Which is all I've really complained about for months, when it comes to making Al a more efficient and dangerous first option -- Jefferson even went to the line 6 times in this game. In last year's entire playoffs he only went to the line 4 times in 4 games. Look that up too. That's not hyperbole.)
Al got some help from Mo Williams and Randy Foye in this game, like they did last game as well. They went a combined 12-26, and nailed 3 threes in 8 tries. On this night against the misfiring Wolves it was enough. Minny went 2/11 from outside in this game. They're not a great three point shooting team, but you expect them to shoot much better than 11.8 3pt%. As a result, whenever the Wolves would go on a run -- and they went on a few -- they did not have the firepower to extend the run, or get over the hump. We know that well because we've been that team a few times in the last 5 years. It was bittersweet to see another small market team down a few starters be kept at arms distance for 48 minutes. We were that team.
We're not that team now, though. We're a team that's so close to the playoffs I'm writing my series preview now.
Over all this was a solid team effort. I appreciated how everyone was making the extra pass, and working the ball to the open guy. That's how we got higher quality looks at the basket. And that's how we won this game.
Jobs not done. We have one more win to get.
GO Jazz GO!