For better or for worse, however, the Utah Jazz elected not to make any trades and will move forward, at least for the remainder of this season, as presently constituted. And, at least for tonight’s game against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves, the decision seemed to pay off as the Jazz beat the Wolves in thrilling overtime fashion, 111-105.
By the way the two teams played through the first three quarters, no one could have guessed that the game would end in such exciting and dramatic fashion.
Both teams started slowly, not because either team was playing great defense, but because both teams were missing shots. In fact, at the end of the second quarter, the Jazz and the Wolves were both shooting just 40% from the field as the Jazz took a six point lead into the break.
The Jazz maintained a slight lead over the Wolves the entire night, but it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Jazz really pulled away. Led by Paul Millsap, the Jazz played some stellar fourth-quarter defense. At one point in the fourth quarter, Paul Millsap had a steal on three consecutive Minnesota possessions. And, just when it looked like Utah had Minnesota on the ropes, the Wolves came storming back behind a barrage of three pointers from Luke Ridnour and Kevin Love and some strong inside play from Nikola Pekovic.
With only a few seconds remaining on the regulation clock and the Wolves trailing by two, Pekovic grabbed the offensive rebound off of a missed Ridnour three-point attempt and scored a put-back layup to tie the game at 99.
The Jazz, with less than a second remaining in the game, drew up one last play for the potential win. In what turned out to be a perfectly executed play, Jamaal Tinsley lobbed an out-of-bounds pass to Paul Millsap who broke free from his defender and found himself all alone with the ball at the rim. Unfortunately, Millsap missed a point-blank layup as time expired to send the game to overtime.
The teams went back and forth in overtime, trading basket for basket, but in the end it was the Paul Millsap show. Millsap quickly atoned for his missed regulation layup by showing the Wolves just why he leads the league in steals from the power forward position. Millsap continued his amazing defensive performance by grabbing two more crucial overtime steals to become just the third Jazz player ever with at least eight steals in a game (joining John Stockton and Andrei Kirilenko).
Millsap finished the game with 16 points, 11 rebounds, eight steals and two blocks.
Derrick Favors continued his strong play as of late by grabbing a game-high 16 rebounds (including eight offensive rebounds) and four blocked shots. Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 26 points off the bench.
With the win, the Jazz pull to within 2 ½ games of Denver for the West’s final playoff spot. The Jazz will look to continue their playoff push against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
Earl Watson was inactive with a sprained left ankle.