If this game felt familiar, it's because it was awfully similar to this game last year against the Nuggets. It was on February 6, the final score of that game was 116-106, and Deron dished out some payback on Joey Graham after he had fouled Ronnie Brewer flagrantly.
Fast forward one year later and we have a final score of 113-106 and Deron going after JR Smith for having flagrantly fouling Raja Bell. The win last season was the team's 8th in a row. Later this season we might be looking back at this victory as a turning point for the team. Deron went after Smith, hitting him in the back with his forearm. Smith was ejected for the flagrant 1 and Deron received a technical. If that's what gets this team going again, that's a small price to pay. Maybe we should even give Smith a co-MVP of sorts is that's the case.
This was the beset game of the year for me. That's not taking anything away from the miraculous comebacks in the November. Look at what this game gave us:
- Jazz were 2-8 in their last 10.
- Jeremy Evans was a huge factor.
- Win over a rival. I would argue they are our biggest rival.
- Win on the road.
- A win after Smith's flagrant.
- Deron's return
- Withstood many runs by the Nuggets
- Deron was feeling it from the get-go. You could see him be more aggressive with the ball and push it. Being the understudy to Earl Watson for 4 games appears to be sinking in.
He had 26 & 12 on the night with 10 of those assists coming in the second half. I really though he had a better night shooting but he was just 9-23 overall and took 10 three-pointers. 10! He's only taken that many one other time in his career and that was just a couple of weeks ago against the Wizards when he had 10 as well. He scored better in that game but the Jazz lost.
Of course his biggest contribution was just returning and spurring the team on with his play and leadership. He either added some believers or solidified his standing.
- Big Al was clutch again. Of his 28 points, 20 came in the second half and 15 in the fourth quarter. He had a block on Melo and also took a charge late. His turnaround jumper from the baseline was a fantastic shots. When he's scoring like the has been, you just keep feeding him.
- Not sure where the team would be without Earl Watson. He's been the glue that has held this team together. He took over the second unit and made it his own. After filling in admirably for Deron the past four games, he returned to his regularly schedule role as backup and made the second unit his.
He was flirting with another big box score when he put up 8 points, 6 assists, and 6 boards. He's complimented Deron well in the backcourt.
- Raja Bell earned a big chunk of his paycheck tonight. 20 points, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 7 rebounds. He had two rebounds late, one on the offensive end, that helped seal the Jazz win. He also had the dagger bucket on a pass from CJ.
- Jeremy Evans can play. He had a fantastic block on Nene and had more dunks. His putback slam blew me away. He just keeps going up and defying gravity until he decides when it's time to com back down. I thought he played well on D, including against the PnR.
It looks like he's going to get more PT. Sloan will have to start finding more minutes.
- CJ Miles. He had 13 points with some timely threes. I appreciated his nice block on Melo more. Just coming from behind and making sure that it doesn't get any air is impressive.
- Fesenko and Hayward. 15 points, 8 fouls. Ballgame. They went after Hayward with Melo each time. Fess was a good cheerleader but picked up 3 fouls in about 39 seciinds
He was legitimately excited and rooting for the guys. I just question him jumping up every time for a CJ mid-range jumper.
- Raja may be finding his niche. he was under Smith's skin all night. That could come in handy.
- 10 blocks for the Jazz
- Do they teach the Nuggets to push off with their off arm on every play?
- Fesenko does something like a spin move and dunk one minute and then fouling out in the next.
- Another indicator of JR Smith's character came up at the end of the first quarter and the Nuggets had over a second left on the clock. Instead of a 3/4 court heave, Smith got the in-bounds pass and headed towards the bench. You gotta protect that 3P%, right Kyle?
- Ronnie P played much better this game. He started out the game 2-3 and a steal from Smith.
- Evans also showed that he can make jumpers when he nailed one from the top of the key.
- The Jazz had just 1 FG over the last 3 minutes of the first half.
- Jazz won the rebounding battle 43-42.
- Melo, 17-18 from the line. Jazz, 17-18.
- The Birdman got confused when he came over the back of Hayward for the ball and decided to just go after the ball and Hayward's head.