Late in the third quarter, Jazz forward Paul Millsap turned and launched a 13-footer from the baseline, hoping and praying to make his 10th consecutive shot in Game 3 against Denver.
The ball's in the air, and I'm saying out loud, "If that goes in, I'm a believer."
It bounced off the rim, but teammate Carlos Boozer grabbed the rebound and scored to give the Jazz a 17-point lead in their eventual 105-93 victory Friday.
So what am I saying now? Tonight's Game 4 at EnergySolutions Arena will decide the series, that's all.
This time, I mean it. Game 2 would determine if the Jazz could even make things mildly interesting. Game 3 would answer whether they might actually win this series. Game 4? Over and out, for one team or the other.
History would say the Jazz are the ones in trouble. Going back to Adrian Dantley's playing days in Utah, the Jazz are now 20-3 in Game 3 at home and 10-12 in Game 4 at home. Eleven times in 22 previous series, they've gone win-loss -- including dismal performances in Game 4 against San Antonio in 2007 and the Los Angeles Lakers last April.
Deron Williams apparently remembers only the win-win sequences of his era, against Houston in '07 and the Lakers in '08, which is probably a good thing.
"We've done it a couple times. ... Hopefully, we understand how big this game is," Williams said. "We've talked about it since we won Game 2: 'Let's not get complacent at home.' "
The state of the Nuggets obviously plays into this. While criticizing his team's effort, Carmelo Anthony also said, "As far as I'm concerned, we're OK."
That statement will become true if Denver wins Game 4. If not, the Jazz would need only to win Game 6 at home Friday to advance.
The one factor in the Jazz's favor is that most of those Game 3 victories/Game 4 losses have come after they came home trailing 2-0. They played desperately, the other guys lacked purpose, and then everybody got serious in the next game.
In this case, the Nuggets knew Game 3 was critical, and they started nicely. Their ultimate failing was not building more than an 11-point lead in the first quarter, after Anthony and Chauncey Billups got them going and the Jazz struggled. Boozer, who missed his first five shots, suggested that, if anything, the Jazz were too amped up at the start.
"We settled down," he said.
The Jazz recovered, outscoring Denver 84-50 over a 31-minute stretch. Did they withstand the best effort the Nuggets will summon in Salt Lake City? We'll find out.
Dantley, the acting Nuggets coach, is stalking the sideline with the same bowlegged walk that was among his trademarks as a Jazzman. In 1984, Dantley's team was down 2-1 to Denver in a best-of-five series, facing elimination in Game 4 on the road in the franchise's playoff debut. He scored 39 points in a victory, and the Jazz went on to win what would become known as the "You Gotta Have Heart" series.
So here's A.D. now, as a first-time, fill-in head coach, in practically the same situation. Wow. This is getting good.
As Jazz coach Jerry Sloan (who was employed as a Jazz scout in '84) said Saturday, "The further you get into the series, all this stuff gets tougher and tougher. It's a matter of mind sometimes, who's going to hang in there and who's going to fold their tent when it really gets tough."
The hangers-in will win this series, right here and now.