Devin Harris floated. When he didn’t float, he glided. When he didn’t glide, he simply ran.
Everything worked. Nothing was work. And by the time the eight-year veteran had finished his one-man full-court blitz Wednesday, it was 104-83 Utah over the Houston Rockets at EnergySolutions Arena, and the talented point guard the Jazz acquired last season in the Deron Williams trade had finally regained the form initially promised when the blockbuster deal was made.
Rockets-Jazz box score: http://bit.ly/wNosgG
Harris started strong, only relented because of illness, and ended with 19 points in 21 minutes, 42 seconds. He took center stage on a night when Utah (16-18) starters Paul Millsap and Raja Bell were out due to injury, giving the struggling Jazz much-needed life heading into a contest Friday against Miami that sets up a five-game road trip.
“Devin’s seeing now where his speed and [with] guys backing up, there’s openings on the floor where he can take advantage of those opportunities now,” Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. “And for whatever reason, it’s taken him a little while to get it. But I want him to keep it, man. If he continue[s] to push the ball like he did [Wednesday] and the last few ballgames for us, it’s going to be tremendous for us going forward.”
It was the old Harris, the classic Harris. The up-tempo attacker that made him an NBA All-Star in 2009 and helped guide Dallas to the NBA Finals in 2006. The relentless driver and sure-handed finisher Corbin spent the first 30 games of 2011-12 begging to come out of his shell.
During the last four contests, Corbin and Utah have received exactly what they traded for when Williams was shipped to New Jersey. And while the Jazz are still searching for long-term rhythm, Harris has at last found a strong groove.
He turned his season around Feb. 20 during a home loss to San Antonio, scoring 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Wednesday, he fought off nausea to sprint along the hardwood, leaving the game with 3:53 left in the third quarter and the Jazz riding a 71-56 lead.
Harris exited ESA before media availability. But his teammates turned into quote-machines.
Al Jefferson: “That’s the Devin I used to love to hate, because he used to do that to me.”
C.J. Miles: “He’s being Devin Harris. He’s playing basketball.”
Earl Watson: “He’s found basketball peace. When you have basketball peace, everything else flows.”
Harris’ midseason discovery couldn’t come at a better time for Utah, which ended a four-game losing streak and stopped a slide that’d seen the Jazz go 2-9 during their last 11.
Utah’s a completely different team when Harris attacks from jumpball, and he’s spent the last four games burying the idea Watson would be better running the Jazz’s first unit.
What triggered Harris’ surge? And why the turnaround now, when he’s spent the last eight months involved more in trade rumors than the Jazz’s immediate future?
Everyone from Corbin to Watson and Miles said the same thing. An abbreviated training camp and preseason; a lockout-compressed schedule and the work stoppage itself.
Harris joined Utah toward the end of a tumultuous 2010-11, then spent the majority of the first half of 2011-12 searching for a green light. Now, he’s back to playing like the fine-tuned athlete who once ran the court in 3.9 seconds — the “fastest man with a basketball” previously considered among the premier point guards in the game.
Harris hit such a high mark Wednesday he and Corbin pulled off a hard-slapped low-five after the point guard forced a key Rockets (21-15) turnover. For a coach and player who seldom seemed on the same page during the start of the season, it was proof their on-the-court relationship can work.
Harris wasn’t the only Jazzman floating Wednesday. With a normally tough-minded Rockets team clearly walking through the motions — soon watching a four-game winning streak fall apart — everyone from Miles (season- and game-high 27 points) to bench players such as Alec Burks made a mark. And with Houston shooting just 39 percent from the field and 26.1 percent behind the 3-point line, the Jazz did exactly what they failed to do during their recent slide: they finished what they started. In turn, Utah reminded everyone — from themselves to their fans — what they can do when they hit the court running and never look back.
R The Jazz snap a four-game losing streak by blowing out the Rockets.
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