Utah Jazz go big in 100-86 win over Bucks
Less than two minutes remained, and Al Jefferson found himself on the perimeter. Unlike the last time he was that far out late in a game you'll recall the ugly air ball that led to overtime two nights earlier what Jefferson did here Wednesday had little consequence on the Jazz's eventual 100-86 romp over the Milwaukee Bucks.
But the shot clock was at 3, and Jefferson was running out of options, so he made a couple of half-hearted dribbles at Bucks center Samuel Dalembert and threw up a 22-foot jumper as he fell to his right.
A prayer. A joke. A droll shot that grazed the glass and somehow snapped the net as it came back to earth in front of 18,571 at EnergySolutions Arena.
"Pretty lucky," Jefferson would later say. "I probably wouldn't make it again in the next five tries."
But by that point in the evening, not much that Jefferson or any of the other Jazz big men did was particularly surprising.
Against a team that was down its starting center, the Jazz (28-22) did something they always talk about but less often accomplish.
They imposed their will.
Jefferson? Recorded his 24th double-double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Paul Millsap scored 17 points and blocked four shots.
But the best, and most critical, post performances came from the reserves, the Jazz's frontcourt-in-waiting, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.
Kanter scored 17 points, grabbed nine rebounds, blocked a career-high five shots and led a Jazz resurgence in the second quarter after his team fell behind by 12 points in the first. His 11 points in 31/2 minutes may have been the best of his career. Favors, meanwhile, blocked three shots, scored nine points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
Yeah, the Jazz were that close to having three players with double-doubles.
"We're a load," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "Most teams have a hard time dealing with us inside."
Kanter's performance was particularly encouraging. The former No. 3 overall pick, the Turkish center had made just 2 of his last 11 shots and was 0 for 7 two games ago in Portland.
"He hadn't been playing on a high level lately," Jefferson said. "I think he been knowing that. I just told him to relax and let the game come to him."
On Wednesday, the game came to him in the form of offensive rebounds, like manna pulled out of heaven. He grabbed all four of his offensive boards in the second quarter, and seven of his 13 second-quarter points came on put-backs.
"Every time I have a game like in Portland," he said, "I'm just sitting here and just talking to Big Al, and my coaches ... they're telling me, 'You're just young and just go out there and just fight.' That's what I'm trying to do."
The Jazz trailed 25-13 with 1:48 left in the first quarter, but rallied for their league-best 12th win after trailing by 10 or more points.
The Jazz played their sixth game without Gordon Hayward, who continues to sit out with a sprained right shoulder, and their third without veteran point guard Earl Watson, who is nursing a stress fracture in his right leg.
But Alec Burks once again rose up, making key defensive plays against the Bucks' dangerous backcourt duo of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, who combined for 30 points but were quiet in the first half.
Burks played 29 minutes, while starter Jamaal Tinsley was limited to 19; he finished with eight points and four assists.
"If he hasn't been able to do what he's done for us," Corbin said, "we'd be in kind of a bind right now."
The Jazz, who are seventh in the Western Conference, won for the fifth time in their last six games, and they improved to six games over .500 on a night that other playoff hopefuls Houston, Portland, Golden State and Memphis all lost.
"It's really important this is the time of year," Jefferson said, "where most teams, either they're banged up or they getting in relax mode. We want to try to take advantage and gain some ground."
O Al Jefferson records his 24th double-double of the season, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
• The Jazz's frontcourt foursome combines for 64 of Utah's 100 points, and 37 of 50 rebounds. They outscore Milwaukee 56-36 in the paint.
• The Bucks have not won at EnergySolutions Arena in their past 11 tries.