Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

November 10, 2010

Jazz Wins OT Thriller

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:16 am

Not long after the Indiana Pacers had finished scorching the nets at Conseco Fieldhouse, the Miami Heat and Utah Jazz played one of the young season’s most entertaining games. Up 19 at the half, Miami figured to cruise. Paul Millsap changed that, leading a Utah comeback with an enormous second half. Millsap, who entered the game having made two three-pointers in his entire NBA career, dropped three shots beyond the arc in the final minute as the Jazz erased an eight-point deficit with 37 seconds to play. He then scored a putback at the buzzer to force overtime.

Utah would play the extra session without Deron Williams, who fouled out late in regulation, and Al Jefferson, by coach’s decision. Ronnie Price and Kyrylo Fesenko stepped into the breach. Francisco Elson ended up replacing Fesenko for the final possession and drew a shooting foul with 0.4 seconds remaining, hitting two free throws to provide the final margin in a 116-114 Utah victory that was as improbable as any you’ll ever see.

The big takeaway is that Millsap is becoming increasingly indispensable to the Jazz. A certain conventional wisdom had it that Millsap was headed back to the bench when Mehmet Okur returns from his torn Achilles, but the two have now played virtually the same number of minutes (Jefferson is +1) despite Utah’s weaker alternatives at the five spot. I still think Okur will end up backing up both spots, but it’s not inconceivable that Millsap and Okur could start with Jefferson off the bench.

Overtime also showed the work the Heat has to do to figure out how to use LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in tandem. Miami’s fourth-quarter issues were almost entirely defensive (the Jazz scored 42 points in the period), and it’s not worth worrying much about what had been the league’s best defense to date. But Miami got just seven points on the first eight possessions of the extra session, prior to Wade’s tying three-pointer. James and Wade seemed to take turns leading the offense–James late in regulation and Wade early in OT–but the player off the ball was not a major factor. Erik Spoelstra has to make defenses account for both superstars at the same time.

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