See? That's a Jerry Sloan team. Spot the other team at least an 18-point lead just so that you can give them a sporting chance. That's respecting the game and playing it the right way.
A show of hands... Who had the Jazz coming back against the Clippers, Heat, and magic after falling behind by at least 18 points? Put your hands down! Nobody expected this. In fact, according to Elias, no team has won three consecutive games when being down at least 10 points at the half.
I joked on twitter at the time that the Jazz just needed to get down by 12 more and then they could make their run. I wasn't far off. The Jazz got down by 18 in the third before switching to a zone (explained in fantastic detail here) that shook things up and allowed the Jazz to make their comeback.
When I saw that they were going to a zone, my immediate reaction was, "Gah!" Orlando was going to kill us. But as Pruiti explained the the article above, the Jazz went to a match-up zone which is a man/zone hybrid. Seriously, read his breakdown because I couldn't summarize any better. Instead of making threes and punishing the Jazz, they settled for mostly contested jumpers that didn't fall.
At the time, the Jazz were down 74-56 after a Rashard Lewis three. From there, the Jazz went on a 24-2 run, spanning the third and fourth quarters. The lone buck was a tip-in for Marcin Gortat after a missed three from Vince Carter. The Jazz held the Magic to one field goal over 6 1/2 minutes of playing time.
It was back and fourth for a bit with the Jazz hanging on to a slim lead late. Utah held just a two-point lead, 92-90, with just over two minutes to go in the game. That's when Deron Williams and Al Jefferson went to work and helped close out the game.
Al finally got his turnaround push-shot to fall and hit two of those in succession to give the Jazz some breathing room. A Deron Williams 22-footer gave the Jazz a 98-91 lead and the Magic were forced to foul the rest of the way after not being able to answer on the other end. Deron closed out the game with 6 straight free-throws.
Of the 17 scoring possessions for the Jazz in the fourth quarter, Deron assisted on 5 and scored on 8. That's how you take control of a game. He put up 17, 5, & 3 on his way to a 30, 15, & 5 game. Over his past 5 games he's put up 25, 11, & 5. He seems to have finally shaken off the rust/disinterest he had from the first two games of the season.
These last two games have probably resulted in two of the most improbable wins for the Jazz. Everyone, except for maybe Ron Boone who called the Miami game (I didn't hear if he predicted the Magic game), didn't have the Jazz winning either of these games. The biggest factor in that though were that they were playing two of the top teams in the league on their respective home courts. Couple that with the inconsistency the Jazz have shown so far this season and it was a recipe for disaster.
Our beliefs were validated in the first game when the Jazz looked uninterested and showed no passion/hustle outside of Paul Millsap. That's what made the comeback against Miami so unbelievable was that the team suddenly turned it on and looked like they gave a damn for the first time in a long time.
Last night's game resulted in a similar predicament, getting down 18 late in the game. I thought they played the entire game with a lot more energy though. They were just not able to make shots and couldn't keep from turning the ball over. When they were able to get those shots to go and take care of the ball, they were able to get back into the game.
So the question now is what do these wins mean for the Jazz? First, there's no reason not to be excited about the wins. These are two of the top teams in the league. They have two of the top defenses in the league. They were on their home court. Defensive teams like that aren't supposed to let 22 & 18 point leads evaporate on their home courts late in the game. So while many will write and say that the Heat and Magic lost these games, the Jazz too these games and won them outright. What I mean by that is that the Heat and Magic lost this game because of the changes that the Jazz coaching staff made and that the players executed. The Jazz took these games and won them.
On the flip-side, the Jazz are still in a flux right now and haven't put together four quarters of good basketball outside of the OKC game. It's taken super-human efforts for these comebacks which is commendable. Let's see how the rest of the month plays out to see what kind of team we have.
Make no mistake though, these are huge, huge wins and potential springboards to better play.
Let's look at the players:
He's turned it on when it counts. He had 17 & 5 in the fourth quarter of last night's game. Against Miami, he put up 11 & 6. He seems to be trusting teammates more now. They were talking on the radio this morning that perhaps he's putting too much pressure on himself. I think he relishes the pressure. Players like him thrive on that whereas others might shirk it.
He provided the offense late and was a big factor in the win. He finally got those push shots to drop, just when the Jazz needed them most. He finished with 21 & 8.
Slacker only had half as many points as the night before with 23. He helped put Howard in foul trouble on the night. A great follow-up performance.
He didn't have the great shooting night but made a three and a two in consecutive possessions that gave the Jazz their first lead after coming back from 18.
He was the only bench player to get significant minutes last night. I thought he played good D on Lewis. He also had the highest +/- of anyone on the team.
He was a force in his 9 minutes on the floor. He challenged Howard and took a charge in the fourth that helped the Jazz keep the momentum.
He continues to use his players effectively and keeps putting the right guys out on the court. The bench is pretty thin right now yet he was able to piece together lineups that were effective. His coaching, and the players executing that, is what turned this game around.
And finally, a day off for the Jazz before they continue this four-game road trip in Atlanta tomorrow. The Hawks didn't look too good against the Bucks last night. They're still 6-2 on the season and the Jazz haven't won there the last three trips.