The Utah Jazz returned home to Salt Lake City on Saturday having lost four straight games including a 103-81 beat down by the Dallas Mavericks Friday night in which the Jazz showed little effort in the defeat. Things wouldn’t get any easier for the Jazz as they prepared for the second half of a back to back against the two time defending world champion Miami Heat at Energy Solutions Arena.
Instead of checking that game in the loss column and looking forward to how they can beat the lowly L.A. Lakers, the Jazz came out shooting against one of the best defenses in the league, scoring 32 points in the first quarter and leading the Heat by 12. Of course the champs came back and made it a two point game going in to half time. The Jazz and Heat traded blows in the third quarter, each scoring 16 points giving the Jazz a two point advantage going into the fourth. That’s when the magic happened.
Quality defensive effort by the Jazz’s young core and polished veterans kept the Heat big two of Lebron James and Dwayne Wade frustrated. James was held to one of his lowest point totals of the season at 13 with five turnovers; and Wade, who always plays well in Salt Lake City, could only muster 19 points to go along with his three turnovers.
It seemed like the Jazz were hitting big shot after big shot as Trey Burke, Enes Kanter, Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams and Alec Burks all had big nights. With the Jazz clinging on to a five point lead with just over 3 and a half minutes to play, Jefferson rifled a pass from his knees to an oncoming Williams who hit a long, off balance 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired. Then with 26 second left in the game and the Heat down by only two, rookie of the year candidate Trey Burke put the dagger in the Heat comeback with a 20-foot jump shot to seal the Jazz victory.
Although the Jazz are having a forgettable season, the young roster has proven that it can play with the league’s best teams. Wins over Miami, Oklahoma City and Houston as well as close losses to the Clippers, Spurs and Warriors have shown that the Jazz are no team to be taken lightly.
Point guard Trey Burke is proving to be a strong contender for rookie of the year and big man Derick Favors is playing like the four year 49 million dollar man the Jazz hoped he would be. Gordon Hayward is proving that he should be worth big bucks in the off season, and there’s little doubt that the Jazz will re-sign the restricted free agent early in the summer. Other players like Alec Burks, Enes Kanter and Marvin Williams are also playing for contract extensions next year, all of which should be picked up for at least a few more years as the Jazz hope to make yearly playoff runs once they draft their potential superstar in the star-studded upcoming NBA draft.
Jazz fans are lying in wait for those pesky ping pong balls to drop, hoping that top three draft pick will fall in the laps of GM Dennis Lindsey and VP of operations Kevin O’Conner. The future for this proud franchise is bright yet hazy, no one knows what they’ll be dealt next year but one thing is for certain; basketball analysts won’t be so surprised when the Jazz start beating these teams more often in the future.
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