03/25/2012 - 16:42
Season Hits Fever Pitch
Al Jefferson and the Utah Jazz might be a little bit tired.
Over the last 48 hours, the Jazz have played 116 game minutes, including four overtimes, scored 254 points and logged 2,300 air miles going from Salt Lake City to Atlanta to New Jersey. All in a weekend's work.
Big Al and the Jazz put the throttle down at home on Friday night, pouring in 121 points to defeat the Denver Nuggets. Two nights later they were in Atlanta, where they went four overtimes with one of the East's best teams, the Hawks.
Al played 51 minutes, scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the four-overtime loss (AP Photo)
The result on Sunday wasn't what they'd hoped for, as they saw their six-game win streak snapped in heartbreaking fashion, 139-133 by the Hawks. But Al did take a little solace in the fact that the Jazz left it all on the court.
"These type of games they hurt," he told the Deseret News. "But at the end of the day, we didn't give up and we kept playing hard, so now we've just got to put it behind us and get ready for (tonight)."
Tonight brings the Jazz to New Jersey, the third stop on a three-game road trip that finishes in Boston on Wednesday. It's the last time the Jazz come so far East this season and it was a trip that started with great promise.
The Jazz and Hawks battled back and forth from the outset. Atlanta went up by as many as six early in the first, but the Jazz fought back. No. 25 scored eight points in the first frame alone, two of his four buckets tying the game. Before it was all said and done, the teams would be tied 19 times. Atlanta entered the second with a seven-point edge and pushed it as high as 17 before settling into a 15-point halftime lead.
But Utah started the second half on an 11-0 run in the opening three minutes and when Al capped it with layup, Atlanta's lead was down to 55-51. Utah grabbed the lead with just over three minutes to go in the third, but the game remained tight for the duration.
No. 25 scored six points in the final two minutes of the quarter, but Atlanta still took a one-point lead into the fourth. Utah regained a four-point edge with 5:30 left, but had to fight back, after a 7-0 Hawks run, to tie it on a Big Al putback with 1:14 to go.
That sent the game to the first overtime, where each team, already weary, scored just two points. Al managed six points on his own in the second overtime, but Utah could not pull away. Despite fatigue, No. 25 gave the Jazz four more points, two rebounds, a block and an assist in the third OT, but the teams were all tied at 123 when the horn sounded. Al exited early in the fourth overtime, after committing his sixth foul with 3:25 to go. The Hawks pulled away in the fourth OT, putting the game out of reach for a six-point win.
The game was the longest in Jazz history and Big Al played 51 of a possible 68 minutes. He finished with team highs in points (28) and rebounds (17) and admitted that though it was tough to play all those minutes, it was even tougher to watch after he fouled out.
"Of course I wanted to stay out there. My leg was cramping. I got fatigued," he said. "Every timeout we had I took advantage of it. I wanted to play…it was hard to sit and watch (after fouling out). I wanted to be out there."
Coach Tyrone Corbin said after the game that he was comfortable with the matchups the Jazz had on Atlanta and thus went with the same starting group for each overtime period. And though his players were fatigued at the end, Corbin said it didn't impact their play.
"It was tiring, but these kind of things you've got to enjoy if you love competing," Corbin told the Deseret News. "It's a great game to be a part of. It would have been a greater game to win it."
EFFICIENT JAZZ CRUSH NUGGETS
Despite Sunday's setback, the Utah Jazz are still on a roll as the season approaches its final month. In no game was that clearer than Friday's 121-102 thumping of the Denver Nuggets.
Al scored on 11 of his 16 shots as the Jazz defeated the Denver Nuggets on Friday night (Getty Images).
Big Al gave the Jazz another efficient performance, scoring 23 points on 69 percent (11-of-16) from the field and Utah shot 59.3 percent as a team in the rout. But despite all that, Al said it was the Jazz defense that led the charge on Friday night.
"I just thought we played great defense," he told the Associated Press. "We rebounded, and we got out and ran. Guys were hitting shots. We played inside-out basketball. The most important thing was the defense."
The defense wasn't at its strongest early, as the teams played at a break-neck pace in the first quarter, scoring a total of 62 points. Denver tallied 32 in the opening frame, on nearly 65 percent shooting, to take a two-point lead into the second.
"It's just so easy to get caught up in their style of play," Big Al told KFAN. "but we knew what we needed to do to win the game, and that was get stops and play our pace of basketball."
But the Jazz picked up the defensive intensity in the second quarter and, with the help of 13 first half points from Big Al, took an eight-point lead into the locker room. It was more of the same in the third as the Utah defense limited Denver to just 21 points on 24 shots. They again outscored the Nuggets by a 10-point margin, with Al chipping in eight points and four rebounds, and entering the fourth, the Jazz lead was 18.
The rout was on and Utah held a lead upwards of 20 points for nearly the entire quarter. Thanks to the significant lead, coach Tyrone Corbin got to rest his starters, including Big Al, who logged less than three minutes in the third as the Jazz romped to their sixth straight win.
"It was a tremendous, gut-out win for us," Corbin told the Salt Lake Tribune of his team, which now finds itself in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. "We've been working our way back in it… [But] it's going to be a dogfight the rest of the way. We can't afford to relax now that we're back in the picture."
After Friday's win and Sunday's loss, the Jazz sit in the seventh spot in the West, though holding an identical record with eighth place Houston and ninth place Denver.
"Everyone's confidence is up, as a whole. I think that's very important and it's showing." Al told KFAN. "But we've got a long way to go. This is not what we wanted to do, be in it 18-19 games left, just be in the playoff picture. We want to be in the playoff picture at the end of the season. That's our main goal."
Following Sunday's game, the Jazz left Atlanta on their way to New Jersey where they will take on the Nets tonight.
Al said it will be a test both physically and mentally for the team, but they have no choice but to be ready.
"No matter what I say right now it's not going to stop the fact that we do have to get up and go tomorrow," he told KFAN. "So we just have to get our mind ready, get our rest, ice up – do whatever we got to do to win this game tomorrow. This is a perfect example, three games in three nights. We have to find a way to win the game so we can be done. We just have to find a way to fight and win."
Catch the game between the Nets and Jazz at 5:30 pm. MST on ROOT Sports.
- Jazz lose longest game in team history, in 4OT (Salt Lake Tribune, March 25, 2012)
- Utah Jazz kept playing and playing, but fall in 4OT to Atlanta Hawks (Deseret News, March 25, 2012)
- Jazz 133 Hawks 139 4OT: Al Jefferson Post (KFAN, March 25, 2012)
- Jazz at Hawks Play by Play (ESPN.com, March 25, 2012)
- Al Jefferson, Gordon Hayward lead Jazz as Utah continues winning streak (ESPN.com, March 23, 2012)
- Jazz beat Nuggets 121-102, improve playoff outlook (Salt Lake Tribune, March 23, 2012)
- Utah Jazz blow out Denver Nuggets for sixth consecutive win (Deseret News, March 23, 2012)
- Jazz 121 Nuggets 102: Al Jefferson Post (1320 KFAN, March 23, 2012)
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