I’m beginning to think that fatigue plays absolutely no factor in the NBA.
Yesterday the Jazz supposedly carried an edge against a tired Atlanta team playing their third game in as many nights, but instead found themselves limping off the court after a brutal 139-133 loss in quadruple overtime.
Tonight, the Nets supposedly carried an edge against a tired Utah team playing on the road after a horrific 52-minute loss the night before.
The initial assessments proved incorrect in both cases.
The Jazz stormed into New Jersey, took the lead early and never looked back. Save for a random 17-5 run, during which the Jazz revealed some of that depleted stamina, Utah controlled the contest and cruised to a relatively easy 105-84 win.
Leading the barrage was Paul Milsap, who scored 24 points in just 32-minutes of play, followed by Big Al with 19 and Burks with 15.
New Jersey, meanwhile, found little to do in the fourth period. D-Will practically disappeared, but still managed to score 17 points while netting 11 assists, Wallace made us remember why both Charlotte and Portland eagerly traded him away at mid-season in each of the last two years (in the latter’s case, for injured ex-Jazzman Mehmet Okur, Shawnee Williams and a 2012 first round draft pick), while D-Shawn looked like an eerie shadow of his once young self (hard to believe a mere year ago the man played a pivotal role in Dallas’ shocking championship run) – in point of fact, he looked depleted, like he had given up on the NBA altogether.
Ex-Kim Kardashian played 22-minutes and in that span went 0-for-6 from the field (managing just two free throws) and looked every bit like the man Kevin O’Connor happily traded away for (of all people) Rafael Araújo, aka Christian Bale’s steroid-induced brother, way back in 2006. (Humphries also brought back horrible memories of a time when the Jazz BIGS lacked size, talent and athleticism. Oh how far we’ve come.)
In fact, only sixth year veteran Gerald Green demonstrated a desire to win the game, throwing down 20 points to become tonight’s Random Player Who Typically Sucks, but has a Monster Game Against the Jazz winner. (Granted, Green has scored 26 points twice this season, but come on!) If Green hadn’t erupted, Coach Corbin may have only had to play Big Al and Milsap for a combined 15-minutes. Seriously.
But, alas, New Jersey made a brief third quarter run … for pride, I suppose. But then the Jazz got busy – Milsap drew an AND-1 to give Utah a 77-69 lead. Harris dished a nice lob to Milsap who dropped in the bucket to put Utah up by 10 (again). Then, Harris (nine points, 11 assists – awesome) tossed up a 3-pointer with 5:39 to play in regulation; a shot that made even Big Al scream, “WTF, man?”
By that point New Jersey had given up and started running through the motions. D-Will attempted a few half-hearted jumpers, Sundiata Gaines tried to rally the bench into a cheer – “Give me an N! No? Guys? Oh, come on! It worked in Utah. No respect here, man. I’m a living god in Salt Lake. I made the shot that beat LeBron! Who cares if he still doesn’t recognize me in the airport …”
I think even the refs called it a night – I swear I saw Dick Bavetta sitting on the sidelines eating a sandwich, talking to fans about his brief role in Ron Howard’s Cocoon.
What. The. Hell.
Seriously, how did the Jazz pull off this win? I’ll tell you: Coach Corbin read my blog and spread out his minutes accordingly. Instead of forcing Big Al, Milsap, Hayward, Miles, and Harris to play the entire game, he generously donated half of their minutes to Burks, Favors, Watson, and Carroll. I’m still a little disappointed at Kanter’s playing time, but I have to admit: Corbin coached a great game. I know the opponent was merely a pathetic New Jersey team, one that, as Harpring stated, “is purposely losing to get a better draft pick,” but still … During New Jersey’s brief run, Corbin used Burks instead of Hayward (who looked beat), and did a terrific job getting Milsap and Jefferson some decent rest. (Where was that kind of subbing in 3OT yesterday, Corbin!) The moves worked, and Utah continues its current hot streak – six out of seven wins overall, three on the road, which puts them at 27-23 on the season and tied for seventh in the west with the Rockets and Nuggets. (Somewhere Kevin O’Connor sits on his throne, a dark hood covering his face, speaking to one of his associates: “Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen!”)
For the love of all that is pure, I really wish Corbin would do this every night. And I really hope he has the good sense to use this tactic against the aged Boston Celtics on Wednesday. I understand the need for veterans – they provide leadership, wisdom and clutch in difficult situations, something we’ll surely need against Doc Rivers and co. – but nothing trumps athleticism, especially when those involved display camaraderie.
Did you see the Jazz bench? Everyone from Jefferson to Evans looked happy and excited to be a part of this team. After the crushing lost against Atlanta, Utah could’ve folded their tents and called it a day – and no one would’ve blamed them, not even me – but instead they persevered and came out with the victory.
Whether the Nets wanted to win or not remains irrelevant (I still think D-Will and O’Connor planned this whole swap-thing as a means of getting more talent to SLC; the Jazz will re-sign D-Will this offseason). This Jazz team continues to prove that they’re ready to take their talents to the next level (you thought I was going to say South Beach, huh). I honestly think they can pull off some hefty surprises should they make the playoffs.
They’ve already surprised the hell out of me.