This was one of the most fun games I have been to this year. Easily. In terms of pure aesthetics, it was magnificent: 17 FT's for Portland, 18 for the Jazz. Lots of threes, lots of points in the paint, lots of steals and resultant points (for the good guys, at least).
And everyone played well.
Hayward, Millsap, Jefferson, Mo, Burks ... you name a guy, and he probably had a good game. Except for probably DeMarre (sorry DeMarre).
And yet ...
As I was driving home, listening to my kids fall asleep and thinking about what to write in the recap, I suddenly started feeling a little sad.
Look at that box score again: Al goes for 24 and 12. A PG surnamed Williams puts up 20 and 9. Millsap adds in 16 points, a Jack-of-All-Trades SF adds 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. We had a starting SG hit some threes. And then there was good production from the main bench players.
Suddenly I realized that I had just seen the team that KOC had envisioned 2 1/2 years ago.
For one night, it all came together the way it had been supposed to all along. The offense revolved around Al, but not via the Conqueror. Everyone was involved, everyone was playing well, and the team kicked butt. They got out to an early lead, they forced turnovers, and the game was never in doubt.
I know I'm supposed to just enjoy it. And at the game I did. Oh, boy I did. As I said, it was one of the most fun games I've been to all year.
I loved Al's dunks. They remind me a bit of Shaq's, just the sheer force of a big, big dude slamming it down. I loved Hayward's crazy drives inside, and the spin-move layup. I loved all the made threes. I loved seeing Favors hit the free throws, get the dunks, and then show a couple moves that reminded us why we all believe in him so strongly. I loved Burks taking the ball to the paint and doing Burks things.* I loved seeing the team win big, dominating from beginning to end. And I loved how focused the team was at the end—not on the win (that was a given) but on trying to get a score for DeMarre and Kevin Murphy, and that ridiculous alley-oop for Jeremy. I don't know how it looked on TV, but it was insane in person. I cannot believe Tinsley tossed it up that far ahead of time. I don't know if I have ever seen that.
* My favorite Burks thing is the way he draws contact. It is just so stinking good how he goes in, leading with his body, protecting the ball, getting the contact and still keeping his shooting form with his hands and ball to give himself a chance at the and-1. I don't remember any Jazzman who does it like that ... ever.
It's just now, thinking back on it, remembering what we all hoped for in the summer of 2010, remembering the promise of the pre-season, and then remembering how it all went so, so wrong.
Last night we got to see a glimpse of the dream.
Just a glimpse.
* * *
The good news is the playoffs are still, in my opinion, probable. I said this in the game thread Friday, and I still say it now: I believe last week's game against Portland (on the road) and then here against Deron and the Nets the next day were the deal-breakers. If the Jazz won them both they would make the playoffs by just winning out the games they ought.
As of right now that is still true.
Let's hope I am a clairvoyant.