You and I and the whole Utah Jazz world remembers it like it was yesterday. The Miracle in Miami. I've watched a lot of Jazz games over the years, I've seen come from behind victories and last second defeats. I've seen game winners, and the team choke down the stretch. Like I said, I've seen a lot of games . . . but the game I'll truly never forget was the game that I almost did not bother to watch. (I had work, and was taping it on my DVR)
It was the November 9th game, back in the early 2010 season . . . that game we had no chance to win, yet somehow did.
Until a few months ago it was the only thing still on my DVR. From the onset you know it was going to be a funny game with how the first points of the game were off of free throws, that Andrei Kirilenko hit because he drew a shooting foul on Dwyane Wade. Millsap tied the game at 7-7 and then after that point the Heat went on a 15-0 run. It was getting bad. Joel Anthony was punking Al Jefferson on defense, and was benched. And Jerry Sloan was getting angry. The Jazz looked horrible, and the Miami Heat took a 25 to 13 first quarter lead.
The second quarter saw the eventual return of our beloved S.W.A.R.M. lineup, with Earl Watson and Ronnie Price playing frantic defense, but it did not really amount to much. The Heat kept the foot on the gas, and went into halftime leading 51-32. However, after the half the Jazz started to come alive. Really, it wad Deron Williams and Paul Millsap coming alive though. D-Will and Sap scored 26 of the Jazz' 30 points that quarter. On defense Andrei Kirilenko and Kyrylo Fesenko kept the heat honest with their multiple drawn charges, blocks, and steals. Yes, Fes' play in this game is noteworthy, Fesenko came into the game for Big Al when the Jazz were down 59-72, and Big Al did not return. (Fesenko played the rest of the way except for the last 3.4 of the 4th, and the last 24 of the overtime; they were the two last second opportunities for the Jazz.) The Jazz cut into the lead at the end of three, but it was still a 13 point deficit. Conventional wisdom says that you need to be within 10 to steal a game on the road going into the fourth quarter.
Utah, while they had a valiant run, were most likely going to start this four games in five nights road trip with a loss.
The Fourth Quarter:
Do you know who Jerry Sloan brought out to start the fourth quarter? Deron Williams, Ronnie Price, C.J. Miles, Paul Millsap, and Kyrylo Fesenko. They were up against Eddie House, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Early in the fourth Sloan took Millsap out and put Andrei back in. And over all, this crazy lineup against a pretty great one had TIED THE GAME by the 6:59 mark.
After being down 19 at half, on the road, with our best inside scorer being benched and having to play Fesenko all these minutes.
And you know what else?
The game got tied with Millsap on the bench, and he would be ready and rested for crunch time.
Fourth Quarter, 4:49 left to play:
Paul checks into the game for Andrei after Deron had drawn a foul on LeBron. The Jazz were down 81-86, but we had the ball. Things were going to turn in our favor as the Heat had gone on a mini 7-0 run after our first lead of the game since the first quarter. So with Sap on the floor what happens?
Deron gets called for a charge, and is called for his 4th foul of the game. The Heat run back and Wade gets a basket in the paint. The Heat are now up 88-81, with 4 minutes left. The Jazz come right back and C.J. draws a foul on Wade and goes to the line and makes both of them. Now it's 88-83, and during the break Andrei came in the game for Ronnie Price. If the Jazz were going to make a push, it HAD to happen now.
Instead the Heat go to the line 6 times in a row (they didn't make all of them), only to be broken up by an Andrei three with 2:11 left. The Heat are up 92-88.
Fourth Quarter, 2:11 left to play:
Heat have the ball after the Andrei three -- but then C.J. steals it from D-Wade, instead of running something stupid the Jazz elect to get the ball into D-Will's hands. And then he promptly turns the ball over. UGGGGGHHH.
The Jazz were going nowhere very slowly, but with only 108 seconds left to play in the game.
- 1:25 -- Udonis Haslem misses a shot, gets his own rebound, and puts it back in. Heat up 6
- 1:10 -- Deron Williams makes a midrange jumper. Heat up by 4
- 0:52 -- LeBron James gets two free throws and makes them both. Heat up by 6
- 0:40 -- C.J. Miles is called for charging, Heat ball.
- 0:37 -- Dwyane Wade gets two free throws and makes them both. Heat up by 8
- Utah Takes a Time out.
You know if know what's next though, right?
Crazy defense and even crazier Paul Millsap save the day by hitting three threes to bring the Jazz to a 102-103 deficit with 4.3 seconds left to play in the game. Which leads to HAVING to foul the guy who gets the ball -- which led to Deron Williams fouling out.
Wade bricked the first freebie though, and made the second. Now with 3.4 seconds on the clock . . . the Jazz are down by only 2.
Utah takes another timeout.
The Last second play:
We already saw him put it in, but really. Deron out, they need to score . . . and the ball goes to C.J. Miles for the game winner. He misses, but misses in juuust the right way where Paul gets the ball and puts it in as the time runs out. Tie game . . . again.
So how do you win a game on the road in overtime when your best player fouled out (Deron), and your second best player has been benched (Big Al)? You ride the hot hand, and Paul was up to the task. Well, actually, here's the points for overtime for the Jazz:
- Paul Millsap 2 (free throws)
- Andrei Kirilenko 5 (a three and two free throws)
- Kyrylo Fesenko 3 (an inside basket and a free throw)
- Francisco Elson 2 (two free throws)
The Jazz actually scored first in OT (that Fes bucket) and won the game with defense. The points to seal the win were Elson's two free throws after the drive and dish by Ronnie Price.
Somehow the team down 19 at half won this game in OT when their best player fouled out in the 4th quarter. And they did it behind . . . .Elson's free throws? Well, yes; but more reasonably, they did it behind Paul Millsap's 46 points, 9 rebounds, and three huge, clutch, threes.
The Jazz would go on to sweep this Eastern Conference, four games in five nights road trip with wins against the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, and Charlotte Bobcats. And the Heat used this win to help focus their team and was the single, major catalyst that propelled them to be NBA Champions a season later.