MIAMI — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were all on the court Tuesday night during an NBA game for the ages.
But all anybody could talk about during and after this classic at AmericanAirlines Arena was Miss Bettye's son.
Also known as Paul Millsap, the former NCAA rebounding champion, the current Miami Heat-killer, the new 2011 3-point-shooting contest frontrunner, Carlos Boozer's more-than-capable replacement and, on this night, the man, the myth, the legend.
Millsap — or Miss Bettye's son, as his teammates lovingly call him — had a performance so epic that it overshadowed Miami's All-Star trio.
The latest, greatest power forward out of Louisiana Tech scored a career-high 46 points and fueled the Jazz's comeback fire as Utah rallied from down 22 to outlast and shock the Heat with a thrilling 116-114 overtime victory.
"We just kept chipping away, chipping away," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said of the comeback that included being down by eight with 37.3 seconds remaining in regulation. "Miss Bettye's son, that's Paul Millsap if y'all don't know, just carried us, put us on his back. Just the way he played was great. It was brilliant. His back's going to be hurting tomorrow from carrying us."
And Millsap's mouth might join his aching ankle and hip in pain and hurt from smiling.
"It is speechless to be down like that to a team like this in a hostile environment and come out with a win," Millsap said. "We clawed our way out of there. But that says a lot about our team."
And this one, according to Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, said a lot about Millsap.
"He shows you what he's about. That's one of the things, when it gets tough he doesn't quit working," Sloan said. "That's why he's gotten to be better and works at the game to make himself better.
"How many people," the Hall of Fame coach added, "would've thought three years ago or four years ago he would be able to make three 3-point shots in a row?"
Teammates said they knew. They see him hit threes in practice against them every day. And anybody who witnessed his sizzling shooting from outside in this one is a believer now.
After scoring 31 points in three quarters before leaving with a bruised hip, Millsap saved his best for the end of regulation when he drilled three 3-pointers in a 26-second span and then sent the game to overtime with a save-the-day putback at the buzzer.
"It takes some special plays in order for us to be in the game," Jazz guard Ronnie Price said, "and Miss Bettye's son was special tonight."
This one took multiple special players and plays, though.
Though Williams sat out the overtime, he sparked the Jazz in the second half and ended with 21 points and 14 assists. Andrei Kirilenko chipped in 16 points, C.J. Miles broke out of a slump to add a dozen points, while reserve role players Price and Kyrylo Fesenko had invaluable performances down the stretch in helping the Jazz win a game they really had no business winning because of the talent they were facing and the way they had been playing.
"We do have fight in us," said Jazz center Francisco Elson, who hit the game-winning free throws at the end of overtime.
The beginning of the game was as brutal as the end was brilliant for the Jazz. South Beach party animals miles away had to be fearful of getting nailed by the clangs and clunkers Utah players were hucking up at the hoop.
Before LeBron James' powder had a chance to clear the arena air, the Jazz were trailing 22-7 thanks to a 15-0 run by the sizzling Heat.
Miami expanded that lead to 22 and the Jazz went into the locker room behind by 19 after shooting a miserable 31 percent and scoring just 32 points.
"You saw how we came out. They pushed us around," Sloan said. "We settled for shots. Our guys looked like we were going to quit a little bit. We had a tough time getting going."
Even when the Jazz got things going in the second half, James, Wade, Bosh and even Zydrunas Ilgauskas seemed to respond with plays to keep Utah down by double digits.
That only set the stage for a special finish.
With Al Jefferson struggling mightily and not playing after the third quarter, the Jazz rallied at the beginning of the fourth with Williams, Price, C.J. Miles, Millsap and Fesenko on the court.
Miles heated up for four quick buckets, Williams nailed a jumper and then Price tied the game, stunningly, by sending a 3-point shot to the bottom of the nets while shooting right in front of the Jazz bench.
Price pumped his fist, and the Jazz continued to celebrate on the next possession when Williams hit a go-ahead jumper for an 81-79 lead.
"Ronnie Price, he just plays hard, just keeps working," Sloan said. "He made a couple of mistakes, but he's always giving you his best effort."
A couple of mistakes came on the next plays. Price got burned while helping on a double-team, and Wade hit a 3. Then Price leveled James Jones and was called for a flagrant foul. That resulted in two free throws and a Chris Bosh bucket for a quick six-point turnaround.
Miami kept that momentum all the way until Wade sank two freebies with 37.3 seconds remaining.
That's when Millsap opened up a 3-point-shooting clinic in Miami.
"I think it shocked them a little bit tonight," Millsap said, smiling.
Millsap drained one, and Williams matched his long bomb about seven seconds later. The Heat were still up by five with 19.3 seconds to go, but Millsap stunned the sports world by sinking two more threes in a row — one to cut the lead to 101-99 and another to bring the Jazz within one.
Following Wade's make-and-miss stop at the free-throw line, Millsap then sent the game into overtime by cleaning up the glass on a C.J. Miles' missed 3-pointer and flinging the ball back in at the buzzer.
"It fell right in my hand," Millsap said. "And my thing was just to put it up quick and put it up in the basket."
The Jazz had one more comeback in them in the overtime. Fesenko and Millsap hit free throws and then Andrei Kirilenko took his turn from 3-point land to put the Jazz up 112-111 after trailing by four.
Wade eventually tied it at 114-all on his own trey, but that just opened the door for one last bit of heroism from a couple of unexpected stars.
With time running out, Price burst toward the basket and dished off to Elson. Before the remaining Heat fans could clamor for a miracle shot from a non-Jazz player or another overtime session, a whistle was blown.
Elson was fouled and was sent to the line with the chance to all but put this classic away.
Drama and angst filled the arena, but the pressure didn't faze the 34-year-old veteran. He drained the first to give Utah a 115-114 lead.
No worries from this feisty but cool cucumber.
"I have confidence in my own free-throw shot," Elson said.
It only figured on this night of seeming destiny that even an attempted miss by Elson on the second free throw banked off the backboard and dropped in the net.
"I think Paul Millsap just rubbed off on me. I couldn't miss," Elson said. "He wasn't missing, so I couldn't miss them."63 comments on this story
After a timeout, Eddie House did badly miss his game-winning attempt. At that point, you could have heard a pin drop and a Jazz celebration on the Heat's court.