The game that never should have lasted this long just may have extended the Jazz’s season into the playoffs.
The Jazz’s battle with Dallas finally ended after 63 minutes of basketball and more than three hours of real time Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
It all added up to a 123-121 triple-overtime victory that registers as the Jazz’s most meaningful win of the season — partly because it almost became their most devastating loss, potentially ending their season.
“They had chances; we had chances,” said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin.
The Jazz had more chances.
They held an eight-point lead and the ball in the last four minutes of regulation, but could not finish off the Mavs, and actually needed Paul Millsap’s one-handed dunk of a rebound to force overtime.
They had the last two shots of the first overtime period, but Gordon Hayward’s driving attempt missed, and so did Al Jefferson’s tip.
They somehow had two possessions in the last 10 seconds of the second OT, but Millsap lost the ball and later rimmed out a halfcourt shot.
Eventually, the Jazz took control in the third OT, thanks to Devin Harris’ 3-pointer and Jefferson’s short jump shot.
In the end, the Jazz produced some staggering numbers: Jefferson’s 28 points and 26 rebounds, the team’s 12-of-28 shooting from 3-point range and 44 minutes played for newcomer DeMarre Carroll — more than Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter combined.
“Forty-four minutes in crucial times,” Carroll marveled. “God works in mysterious ways.”
So do the Jazz, who have lost a four-overtime game at Atlanta and had successful tip-ins ruled too late against Sacramento and Phoenix in recent weeks, yet find themselves only half a game out of the Western Conference playoff chase — Houston and Phoenix are tied for eighth place — with four games to play.
“We’re playing like we want to be in the playoffs,” Jefferson said.
“This was the game to show how bad we want it,” Millsap said.
“The great thing is this team continues to show character,” Corbin said. “They’re learning through situations. It’s just great to see them compete and learn on the fly.”
In the latest episode, that educational experience included some bizarre stuff, like Dallas’ Delonte West shoving a finger into Hayward’s ear in the second quarter. Hayward walked away, showing remarkable restraint. He spent the rest of the night trying to respond properly, finishing with 24 points.
Even so, winning this game took a lot of extra work, more so than actually necessary.
“It was frustrating,” Hayward said.
Yet all that ultimately matters is that the Jazz set themselves to keep playing into May.