SALT LAKE CITY — Last Thursday's "LeBron James Punishes Cleveland, Part Two" spectacle had more hype, hoopla and clever signage than will be found at tonight's Miami-Utah showdown.
And James' homecoming was undoubtedly a bigger story.
But this Heat-Jazz rematch has enough juicy subplots — from revenge, redemption, really good basketball teams squaring off, to reliving memories of Sundiata Gaines' 3 and Paul Millsap's 46 — that national TV executives should be kicking themselves for not airing the 7 p.m. game at EnergySolutions Arena.
In the immortal, paraphrased words of the guy who'll call the action for FSN-Utah — Jazz TV voice Craig Bolerjack — fans might want to click into their couches' safety belts before tipoff.
The intriguing storylines include:
And not just for the Heat, who are among seven teams to botch a double-digit lead against the Jazz this season. Granted, Miami's meltdown was the biggest and one of the most memorable, seeing as Utah fought back from a 22-point deficit and then beat the Heat, 116-114, in overtime.
"They're riding a win streak right now. They want to keep it going," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "They want to avenge one of their losses when they weren't playing very good."
To say the least.
"I think they've got a little chip on that shoulder coming in," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "They felt like they let that game slip away."
But that riveting rally and Millsap's career-night — especially the 11-points-in-28.7-seconds part at the end of regulation — only salted the wound James previously received from Utah earlier this calendar year.
Tonight will be the superstar's first visit to the Beehive State since his phenomenal fourth-quarter explosion against Utah last January was spoiled by a kid who'd not long before been hooping it up for the Idaho Stampede.
Gaines' improbable, buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave Utah an unlikely 97-96 victory over Cleveland, put a glimmer of hope in the hearts of D-Leaguers everywhere, became one of the 2009-10 NBA highlights and overshadowed James' 18 fourth-quarter points that helped the Cavaliers erase a 10-point Jazz lead.
And we're not talking about the Heat here, either. Jefferson is saying all the right things now, but he put up a two-point, 1-for-7 stinker of a game in Miami. The new Jazz center struggled so much that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan kept him on the bench for the fourth quarter and overtime.
"We got a victory, that's all that matters to me," Jefferson said. "I was happy with the whole idea that I was able to have a bad game and not play the fourth and overtime … and we still came out with a victory."
Jefferson said his worst game as a Jazzman has been long forgotten — or at least it was.
"I got it out of my head until everybody else keeps bringing it up," he said. "I'm just going to go in (tonight) and just look at it as another game and just do my best and do what I can do."
Wait. Just another game? Really?
"He's going to be aggressive. He's going to try to take it down their throats," Millsap said. "He is still a little upset about that game. You can tell it's on his heart."
Jefferson has progressed in the Jazz system since then, Deron Williams pointed out. But, he added, "I'm sure he remembers. He definitely remembers that game."
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