Portland, Ore. — Al Jefferson was singing. Lines and lyrics. Joyously out loud. All while combing his hair, tapping his feet and smiling wide.
How good was Big Al feeling?
So good he had to say it.
"I feel good," said Jefferson, emphasizing every word.
So did the Jazz. Proving once again they won't be counted out, Utah fought back to steal a crucial 102-97 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday. Paul Millsap played the biggest part. But everyone from Derrick Favors to Jamaal Tinsley shined.
Twelve games remain for the Jazz. And Utah continues to believe — and show — its playoff-worthy.
Jefferson on how big the win was: It's just show you that's why we weren't really panicking the couple games that we lost. As long as we put ourselves in a position to win the game, that's all I ask for. I can go home and go to sleep at night. We did that. We just kept fighting and kept fighting. We knew they played last night, so we kept our pressure up. We knew that sooner or later those shots weren't going to go in like they was in the first quarter. I don't know what it is about us and the first quarter, but teams just get hot against us. I think for the most part we do play pretty good D.
Millap being underrated: I'm pretty sure he feel the same way I feel, we could care less what people talk about. He kind of one of them guys — I'm a big believer that the cream always going to rise to the top. He's one of them guys that, regardless if people talk about him or not, he come to play his game. He took over this game tonight and if it wasn't for him we wouldn't have had a chance to win.
Tinsley stepping up with Devin Harris out: Man, I'm not surprised about Jamaal. The man did eight miles today. He just a true professional. He always stay ready. He did eight miles on the treadmill. He came in ready to play. But he looked like he was about to go to sleep before the game because he was so tired. He came in ready to play. That's just being a professional; the type of guy he is.
Quiet night for C.J. Miles (four points, two shots in 7:05).
Jefferson acknowledged his offense was off and it was. He was just 6 of 17 from the floor and was initially troubled by Joel Przybilla's length and bulk.
Tinsley's three points and six assists in 17:49 were much bigger than the box score showed. After Harris went out with 2:30 left in the second quarter, Tinsley stepped up and drove Utah home. He dished out three assists during the fourth quarter, pocketed two steals, and his theft on an inbound pass with 26.9 seconds to go was a game-changer.
Gordon Hayward was almost as big as Millasp. He scored 20 points and played a team-high 39:54. And he was a key part of Utah's third-quarter rally, scoring nine points while playing all 12 minutes.
Jonny Flynn and Nolan Smith couldn't cut it for Portland, while J.J. Hickson returned to earth.
Raymond Felton killed the Blazers when the game mattered most. He finished 2 of 10 for four points, erasing eight assists and nine rebounds.
Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews combined for 76 of Portland's 97 points.
The Blazers shot 65 percent (13 of 20) from the field during the first quarter while hitting 5 of 6 3-pointers. Portland finished at 43.2 percent (35 of 81) from the floor, only hitting 23 of 61 shots during the final three quarters.
Brian T. Smith