Where to begin on one of the strangest Jazz home games in recent memory? To paraphrase Stefon, this game had everything: World-class matador defense giving up 65 points in the first half, a home crowd booing their team (and deservedly so) until midway through the third quarter, a star player (Denver’s Iguodala) getting ejected for talking to a referee disguised as Al Jefferson. Coach Ty Corbin getting a technical and being faux-restrained by owner Greg Miller (as seen in the clip above). The Manimal running wild on both ends of the floor. Jamaal Tinsley (15 points, 3-6 on 3s, 35 minutes) playing like it’s 2003. A terrible final play by the Nuggets that had Ty Lawson getting Randy Foye in the air and then inexplicably passing the ball out and running out of time without even getting a shot off. Standing ovations and a wild playoff atmosphere in the fourth quarter. Also, is that Robert Whaley in the crowd?
In the end, Al Jefferson somehow willed the Jazz to the inexplicable win. Jefferson’s team play and unselfishness is wildly underrated. Check out the clip below showing Al Jefferson taking himself out of the final play to give Derrick Favors a chance to defend:
It’s time Jefferson gets more credit for putting the success of the team ahead of his own interests. It’s a rare thing to see a guy in a contract year who goes out of his way to mentor the two guys (Favors and Enes Kanter) who are in position to take his job. In this game specifically, if not for a stellar Jefferson performance (28 points on 10-15 shooting), the Jazz might have been behind by 30 at some point.
The game was also notable for being the second straight game that Paul Millsap didn’t see the floor in the fourth quarter. It pains me to say it, but on this night it was the right choice. Millsap got abused all night long by the Manimal and finished with just 5 points and 5 rebounds. After the Jazz gave up roughly 7,000 points in the paint in the first half (actually 46, but still a ridiculous parade of dunks and layups), something had to change.
Speaking of change, what’s happened to Gordon Hayward? I make a lot of jokes about his performance always being directly tied to school breaks at Butler, so I’ll give him a few more post-Thanksgiving games before ringing the alarm on his disappearing act. 4 points in 28 minutes isn’t getting it done.
Derrick Favors, on the other hand, was a beast. His 19 points and 7 rebounds off the bench were a beautiful thing to watch, as was his battle with the aforementioned Manimal.
Also great to see a vintage performance by Jamaal Tinsley. The best part about watching an old man like Tinsley be successful is the way he plays to his strengths. The flaws in his game are obvious to anyone paying attention, but he’s disciplined enough to stick to the things he does well (limiting turnovers, getting guys easy baskets in transition, working hard to improve his outside shot, making a strong effort on defense even if he’s overmatched).
A great result despite the emotional roller coaster. All that matters is the W and somehow the Jazz are 8-7 and still undefeated at home. Up next this week: At New Orleans on Wednesday, at OKC on Friday, and at Houston on Saturday.