I held back posting my thoughts on the win against Miami because I wanted to see how the Jazz responded against Dallas. Would they roll over and die, feeling the exhaustion that can only arrive during back-to-back bouts against two of the NBA’s best teams? Would they get blown away, thus revealing their victory as nothing but a fluke? Or would they battle hard until the bitter end?
Suffice to say, Saturday night’s loss against Dallas didn’t disappoint. I know it sucks to lose, but considering the way we lost I must admit: I’m deeply impressed by this post-All Star break Utah Jazz squad.
Granted, I was disappointed in their third quarter energy – our bench looked sluggish and slightly overwhelmed. Earl Watson struggled from the field (and only dished out one assist), Alec Burks, though providing some energy, was a tad out of control and Enes Kanter played more timid than usual.
Our starters weren’t faring much better. At one point Gordon Hayward had only attempted one shot before clanking a three point attempt off the back of the rim (he finished with 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting). Al Jefferson had a hard time matching up against Dallas’ big boys, while Devin Harris and Josh Howard (both ex-Mavericks) sometimes looked as though they were still playing for their old team.
Still, our boys didn’t let up and in fact made one hell of a game out of what appeared to be a blowout. Trailing 74-55 heading into the fourth period, Utah came on strong and outscored the Mavs 41-28 in the final quarter. It was beautiful to behold. Milsap was in fine form, finishing with a team high 24 points to go with six rebounds; CJ Miles (playing the most consistent ball of his career) chipped in 13; and Derrick Favors added 14 (no small feat considering the level of competition he was up against). If it wasn’t for that miserable third quarter, during which Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry effortlessly dropped a plethora of shots from beyond the arc leading a furious 21-8 Dallas run, then the Jazz might’ve ran away with their third win in as many games.
A week ago if you would’ve asked me how I thought the Jazz would fare in the upcoming games against Houston, Miami and Dallas, I would’ve laughed and said, “They’ll be lucky to squeeze out a single victory.” Such is the roller coaster season this year has so far provided.
That’s partially why I refrained from sharing my thoughts after the win against Miami. It was a big win, for sure, but I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. The Jazz held on for dear life at the end of that game, and came way with a solid victory. Holding off a ferocious LeBron James fourth quarter attack (during which even Matt Harpring was screaming with delight) is no small feat, nor should it be overlooked. However, there still exists fundamental flaws within the Jazz system. Here we have a team capable of lighting up the world champion Dallas Mavericks in the fourth quarter, but cannot seem to put forth a 48-minute effort. Even against Miami the Jazz struggled down the stretch. When they’re clicking, this team can smoke anybody – and I mean ANYBODY. They have the talent, depth and finesse to pull off major victories. On paper this is a top three or four team. But that realization hasn’t sunk in yet. Instead we get a team who, for brief spurts, frustrates with flashes of brilliance, are overshadowed by an offense that looks erratic and a tad underdeveloped. There are times it seems no one on the court knows what play to run at any given moment.
At times the Jazz look helpless.
But then things start clicking. Harris finds his groove, Hayward discovers his confidence and Milsap channels Karl Malone. And then we’re money.
Look, I’m glad the Jazz mounted a comeback and I’m happy they made a game of it against Dallas. I’m not complaining about the loss – beating Dallas on a back-to-back after an emotional victory against Miami is almost too much to ask. But I will say this, if this Jazz squad played together for four solid quarters, nobody could beat them. But everyone needs to step up EVERY night, for 48 minutes!
Perhaps that consistency will come with time. For now I’ll enjoy the wins and marvel at the quick maturation process. After all, they’re almost there.
You don’t beat LeBron James and Dwayne Wade then turn around and outscore the world champions 41-28 in the fourth on their home court by being an average team.