Never count out anyone in the NBA. Not a player, not a team. The Utah Jazz looked on their way towards a lottery pick thanks to a late-season collapse and having no reliable point guard. So Mo Williams comes out of nowhere in a very inconsistent season from him, aided by finally a big game from both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, inching the Jazz towards what might look like another playoff season.
The Jazz aren’t a team that want lottery picks. They want to be in the playoffs each season. They want to build on success, and not expensive potential stars who just want to get their next big contract. The Millers don’t want to tank, don’t want to miss the postseason. And as we enter the final 18 days of the NBA season, with nine games left to play, Utah find themselves winning three games in a row, passing the Lakers for the 8th spot in the West while knocking out the Portland Trail Blazers for good out of the race with a 105-95 win.
Mo Williams, averaging only 12.4 points this season while missing about a month of basketball along the way, led the team with 28 points in 29 minutes and more importantly, scoring 12 points on a 19-3 run to close out the game in the final 3:48 minutes, coming back from a six point deficit. The Jazz are still going to need some big games from their best option at point guard as they carry on with a small lineup that includes Williams, Foye and Hawyard in the backcourt, but it’s good to know Williams has probably saved his best for the big finish.
For once, the Millsap – Jefferson duo was all it’s supposed to be. Jefferson scored 22 points, adding 8 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks and besides his scoring and dominance in the paint, showed some defensive intensity and effort we’re not really used to see from him. Millsap had an even better game, scoring 25 points, coming with 10 rebounds on 10-14 from the field while completely obliterating the Blazers in the paint, as the Jazz finished with 62 points.
Portland? It was a nice season, but there’s only so much you can do with a starting lineup, and that’s it. To make the postseason, they needed Aldridge, Lillard and Batum at their best. They got a combined 48 points from Lillard and Batum, but without Aldridge on the floor, there was never really a chance.