I don't know if I've ever felt that good about a loss before.
The Jazz got down early 42-26 early in the second quarter and it looked like it was going to get even more out of hand. This would normally be the point where the Jazz start hanging their heads. But by the end of the half, they had closed the gap to just 5, 54-59.
The Cavs were able to add on that lead and push it to 13, 74-61, midway through the third. The Jazz held the Cavs to just 4 points over the final 6 minutes of that quarter and found themselves down just 6, 72-78.
Mind you, all of this came in a road game, on the second of a back-to-back set, and the getaway game of a four-game road trip. This isn't what we're accustomed to from the Jazz.
The Jazz kept fighting in the fourth quarter and finally took the lead, 97-96, on two Carlos Boozer free-throws with 1:55 remaining.
It went back and forth with the Jazz down 2, 101-103 after a LeBron AND-1. What happened next killed the game. It was one of two bone-headed plays by AK that sealed the fate of the Jazz. AK has probably been the most consistent player on the team this year. And even in his post-game interview he gave no reason for what he did.
The Jazz had 24 seconds on the shot clock and the ball in the front court following a timeout after the James free-throw. After the in-bounds pass, the ball came back to AK with 22 seconds left on the shot clock and 23 seconds left in the game. He was three feet behind the three-point line and fired it up missing pretty badly. WTH?
The Cavs got the ball back after that and it was free throws the rest of the way out. AK also made a second slightly-less bone-headed play after Maynor made a layup to cut the lead to 103-105. There was 14 seconds left in the game and the ball was inbounded to LBJ. AK was right on top of him. Instead of fouling immediately, he tried to guard him and let the clock get down to 9 second before finally fouling him. The whole bench was screaming at him the whole time.
James did miss a free throw after that so the Jazz were only down three, but Memo missed a three-pointer and that was that.
After the game, AK really didn't do a good job of explaining why he took that three with all that time left on the clock on the Jazz down just two. He said that "I didn't really look at the time" and tried to explain that that was what they had practiced. Maybe for a three-point shot, but in that situation that's the last shot you want anyone to take.
The Cavs though did make their three-pointers with Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon doing the most damage. But down the stretch, it was LeBron James who drove at will and scored the Cavs' last 8 points, mostly from the free-throw line. AK and Ronnie B had been frustrating him all night. He only had 13 before that last minute. But you had to know that that was coming.
There's no question that everyone would have preferred the win, but for this team, I think this was a huge win and another confidence booster/team builder for the team.
On to the individual performances...
First, I don't know if it was because the Cavs took them out of it or what exactly, but the Jazz didn't seem to have the ball movement that they did against the 76ers. They tallied only 20 assists on the night for their 39 made field goals. Yet they still shot a high percentage at 52.7%. That's not normally the case.
I thought of that because Maynor was more of a scorer tonight going for 24 points & 4 assists. I don't know what he's done to work on that running floater, but it's working now. It was atrocious during the pre-season and summer league. But he was once again getting into the lane at will tonight and able to finish at the basket. He had two late that were impressive. His first was a running drive off the glass that gave the Jazz a momentary 1-point lead. He followed that one up by taking it right at LeBron and getting a quick shot up over James' reach that got the Jazz within 2 again.
We're seeing what he can do with some meaningful minutes and he best part of this is that Sloan will now be able to give Williams more rest when he comes back. If he can get some minutes, he might have a shot at making the rookie/sophmore game. But there's quite a few rookie guards in the west that are very good this year.
Boozer was back again with 24 & 12 to follow up on his performance in Philly. He abused Varejao most of the night and hit a couple of clutch free throws that gave the Jazz the lead late at one point. Like I've said before, his continued good play is beneficial for all parties.
After going 3-3 from the arc tonight, Matthews is shooting almost 50% (7-15) on the season from three. He finished with 13 points but had 5 TOs. He hasn't lost much sheen though.
Other than those two uncharacteristic plays from AK, he was really good tonight. We was doing great on James, had 5 assists, and 7 rebounds. He went 0-4 from three (the 30-footer being the biggest misfire), but he took the shots in rhythm. We really do just have to speculate what might have been had he not jacked that one up.
And another quick note, how long do you have to be in the league for before you can start getting some calls? Millsap seems to be the perpetual whipping boy of the refs. He fouled out with 6 but at least 3 of those came on amazingly questionable calls. His PF per 36 are still the same as when he came into the league. He still has more legitimate fouls than he should, but getting a couple a night that a lot of other players wouldn't doesn't help.
Had the Jazz been able to cut down on their 17 turnovers, we might have had a different outcome. I wonder if the Jazz would have been better off having Shaq play for the Cavs tonight. Anyway, the Jazz are now 3-5 now though but have 6 or their next 7 at home. We should be able to at least go 5-2 over that time, if not 6-1. That would finally get us above .500 before we head for a rough December.
I'm glad that the Jazz made a game of it and that I wasn't wasting a Saturday night (okay, like I was going to be doing anything else) watching them give up and get blown out.
I now have high hopes for the rest of the month and I don't know if that's good or bad.