March 28, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Utah Jazz forward/center Al Jefferson (25) is guarded by Boston Celtics forward/center Kevin Garnett (5) during the third quarter at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Jazz Gassed in Boston

Our boys played their guts out against Boston tonight, but ultimately lost 94-82.

Unfortunately, the repercussions of Sunday’s quadruple overtime loss in Atlanta were on full display. The Jazz were straight-up gassed, burned-out and flat. The heart was there, as was the talent, but the shots continually hit the front of the rim, or bounced off the back iron. You can’t win like that.

And you have no shot at victory when Garnett goes all street ball on your team and the ref’s refuse to recognize his bizarre behavior as such. Harpring calls him an “emotional player.” I think he’s a punk. Always have, always will. You don’t elbow somebody in the chest, applaud a double technical, then bump somebody in the face while walking past them to your position underneath the basket during a free throw – that’s not the NBA. That’s something you’d see in a pick-up game behind Wal-Mart. I applaud Big Al for remaining classy down the stretch. He showed poise and remained competitive (or maybe he was just too tired to retaliate). I would’ve liked to have seen one of his teammates step up for him, though. Watson? Milsap? Anyone?

Speaking of Milsap, we had another play during which our favorite abused man received a blow to the face (by Garnett’s elbow – what a shock) that was once again dismissed by the refs.

What. The. Hell.

It seems Milsap gets clobbered in such a way during every game. Oftentimes, like tonight, he takes it without saying a word. But one day I have a feeling the man’s gonna snap. There has to be a stat somewhere that tallies the most overlooked abused players in the NBA – I’d say Sap is right up there with Dwight Howard. (He was bleeding tonight for cripes sakes – no call!)

Look at it this way: if Milsap clobbered Kobe in the face (or Garnett for that matter) the NBA would’ve suspended him, driven him to the darkest realms of Nevada, and buried him alive in the desert, all mobster-like.

Sometimes this star status crap really eeks me.

But alas, the game didn’t necessarily come down to that play. Sure the lead would’ve been cut to six (provided Utah made a basket), but by then Boston was getting whatever they wanted offensively (shooting 46-percent no less), as they had all game.

After the Jazz made a spectacular 15-3 run to close the 18-point gap and tie the game in the third quarter (during which the Jazz outscored Boston 26-20), the Celtics responded in kind with its own spectacular 7-0 run. Utah continued to fight back, but couldn’t get their shots to drop, scoring just 21 points in the fourth.

Still, there were highlights to remember.

In one awesome show of force, Gordon Hayward blocked Keyon Dooling during a fast break, then turned around and stuffed Avery Bradley’s retaliation-attempt. (I seem to recall some commentators  – during the Heat game methinks – mocking one of Hayward’s blocks and stating he would never have a play like that again … ) Gordy plays with so much intensity and pizzazz (19 points, five assists and two blocks), it’s kinda scary to think about what he will become … Yeah, he’s gonna have a great career.

On the downside, Big Al struggled and more or less limped to an 18-point, 12-rebound double double. I’m not dissing his play – not tonight. He mustered every last bit of energy he had and played a pivotal part in Utah’s stirring comeback. But by the fourth quarter, he had nothing left either offensively or defensively.

Milsap had a quiet 16 point night, while Miles shot just 1-for-10 from the field and finished with only three points – where are you Josh Howard? Backup PG Watson roamed the court for 13-minutes, but scored no points and only had three assists (Harris fared slightly better with five points and seven assists).

About that.

Where the heck was Tinsley? Once again, we have a player step up, show what he can do and then promptly receive more time on the pine as a reward. That doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t mind Corbin playing Watson – he needs to get his legs back – but Tinsley provided spark, energy and leadership on the floor in each of the last nine games (his numbers only decreasing because of less time on the floor). I dunno. If he’d played Tinsley and we’d lost, I’d probably ask why he wasn’t playing Watson …

On the opposite end, Garnett rolled to a 23-point, 10-rebound game, and clearly took advantage of the Jazz’s ailing stamina. His jump shot from the top of the key with six minutes to go put Boston up 80-71 – he continually made big shots down the stretch, and held Utah just inches out of reach, not unlike an eighth grader playing a fourth grader at lunch (no, that didn’t happen to me … I swear).

Rajon Rondo, meanwhile, dished out 14-assists and destroyed Utah on the pick-and-roll, his play eerily reminiscent of Steve Nash’s back when Utah lost to the Suns. Of course, his teammates helped, as everyone from Bradley to Dooling contributed in a big way. Their stat line may not look like much, but they made big shots when they needed to.

I’m gonna blame this loss on Coach Corbin’s odd decision to grind his vets to the ground on Sunday. I’m not gonna go off like I did before – I’ve made my point and will leave it at that – but a rested Jazz squad could have beat Boston, or at least made the contest a bit closer down the stretch.

Then again, I liked the way Corbin spread out the minutes tonight (only Hayward tallied anything close to 40) – he coached an excellent game against Doc Rivers. Too bad he didn’t do the same in Atlanta.

As it stands, I have to remind myself that everyone on this Utah team (including Corbin) lacks experience; and so I can’t take our losses too bitterly. Tonight was a case of hardened vets outwitting a young group of (tired) up-and-comers.

No need to panic.  Just relax and enjoy the show.

(By the way the Jazz dropped to eighth in the west, but remain more or less where they were last night – tied with Houston and Denver, only a game behind Memphis and a game and a half behind the Clippers and Mavericks. Phoenix continues to trail by a game and a half … these next few weeks are gonna be epic.)

 

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