While the frontcourt of the future is sitting on the bench, waiting for some sort of personnel move to free them from the constraints of reservedom, the Jazz starters offered up on Saturday a reminder that they are still around and plenty capable.
Heading into a busy week, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap broke out of what, for them, was a slump by scoring 46 points in the Jazz’s 114-110 victory over the Indiana Pacers. Together, they were responsible for 12 of the 16 points the Jazz scored in overtime. While Pacers center Roy Hibbert still managed a double-double, he said after the game, “I got my ass kicked in the post tonight.”
The Jazz play four games this week, starting with Monday’s 7 p.m. home game against the Houston Rockets (24-22).
Saturday’s performance, though, was a nice change for the pair of big men, who were a combined 10-for-25 from the field a night earlier in a streak-busting loss at the Lakers.
“Last night we fell,” Millsap said after Saturday’s win, “but we still realized what we needed to do and come out and be aggressive, and that’s how we played tonight, with aggression.”
Jefferson scored six straight points to open the overtime period, which the Jazz won 16-12, after the Pacers outscored Utah 9-1 in the final 11/2 minutes of regulation.
“I got in a good groove and I just kept attacking,” Jefferson said. “I think when I’m going full force like that it’s hard for me to be stopped. So my teammates helped me out big time on the offensive rebounds late in the game even though we still got killed on the boards, but we fought to the end.”
The Jazz are at their best when Jefferson gets the ball within the offense, rather than just setting up Jefferson on his preferred left block and letting him back down, then attempt to duck under, his defender.
“I think when we just run our offense, set picks, run it the right way,” Jefferson said, “we can run it on any defense in the league. [The Pacers] are a great defensive team, but I think we proved our offense is just as good.”
Said Millsap: “We ran some misdirection stuff just to get out of the lull. Al did a great job of scoring the basketball for us. … That opened everything else up for us.”
Jefferson is averaging 17.8 points per game in January, his most productive month of the season. But before Saturday, he had also endured some of his most frustrating performances, shooting just 10-for-31 in his previous two games.
Jefferson averages 17.2 points and 9.7 rebounds for the season, and Millsap averages 14.8 points and 7.7 rebounds.
Still, the duo is expected to be the Jazz’s most talked about assets as the Feb. 21 trade deadline draws nearer. The reason? A growing belief that the Jazz need to find time for Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, top-three picks in back-to-back drafts who have consistently shown signs of being ready for increased roles this season.
Against the Pacers, Kanter was 4-for-5 in 22 minutes, while Favors scored 6 of his 11 points in a key stretch to begin the fourth quarter.
Rockets at Jazz
P Monday, 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT
Rockets at Jazz
P At EnergySolutions Arena
Tipoff • Monday, 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Season series • Tied 1-1
About the Jazz • They have won five of their last six games, including a 114-110 overtime victory over Indiana on Saturday. … Randy Foye rose to fifth in the NBA in 3-point shooting after going 2-for-4 against the Pacers. He shoots 44 percent from behind the line. … Gordon Hayward committed a season-high six turnovers against the Pacers. … The team’s 28 rebounds against the Pacers were a season low.
About the Rockets • They are second in the NBA on offense at 104.4 points per game. However, they are also one of the NBA’s worst defensive teams, giving up 102.9 points per outing. … James Harden leads the Rockets and is fifth in the NBA with 26 points per game.