Michael Brandy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — After what happened to him a month ago in Miami, it's little wonder Al Jefferson opened like he did Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
Acting as if he really wanted it, even if Jefferson and the Jazz did eventually lose 111-98 to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat.
"He came out more aggressive than he was down there," power forward Paul Millsap said. "He set a tone for us down low, actually."
Jefferson finished with a team-high 25 points, including 9-for-19 shooting from the field, and a game-high 11 rebounds for his 10th double-double in 23 games this season.
The Jazz's new starting center, acquired in a summertime trade with Minnesota, had 19 of his 25 in the opening half.
It was quite a flip — on two fronts, actually — from Utah's Nov. 9 visit Miami.
In that one, Jefferson produced just two points on 1-for-7 field shooting — and watched from the bench as the Jazz rallied to beat the Heat 116-114 in double-overtime.
This time, Miami won its seventh straight by holding held off Utah's comeback bid — and Jefferson was left with one of his best efforts since joining the Jazz going for naught.
"A loss is a loss," he said. "That's the way I look at it.
"Every time you lose it's disappointing," added Jefferson, who wound up two points off his Nov. 3 season high of 27 against Toronto. "We just have to put it behind us and get ready for Friday."
If the 16-7 Jazz are to have more hope against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic than they enjoyed Wednesday against Miami, another early showing like Jefferson offered against the Heat would aid the cause.
"He got us going in the paint, got a few easy layups, and it helped us out a lot," Millsap said. "It opened up a lot of stuff on the outside. But we didn't knock down shots like we should have, like we normally do."
It wasn't poor shooting — Utah actually hit 50.7 percent from the field — that Jefferson thought hurt most against the Heat. Though that did play a part.
"We missed a lot of shots that we should have made, and they took advantage," he said. "You know, when they've got them guys (James, Wade and Chris Bosh) coming down in open court it's kind of hard to stop 'em."
Nor in his mind was it inadequate toughness, as someone suggested afterward.
"I'm not gonna sit here and say we weren't tough," Jefferson said. "I mean, I think we was tough."
Instead, it was the 15 miscues charged to the Jazz that seemed to weigh heaviest on Jefferson.
"I just felt like the difference in the game: We turned the ball over at crucial times," he said.
Jefferson, as it happened, was responsible for just one of the 15; four went against Andrei Kirilenko, three each to Millsap and Deron Williams.
Yet Jefferson took no solace in the fact he had so little to do with the failure he believes harmed Utah most. He took no special satisfaction, certainly, in the 25 and 11 next to his name. He was left with nothing whatsoever, evidently, to savor.
And it's all because of the outcome.
"It doesn't mean much," Jefferson said of his own play.
"I would like the game," he added, "if I score only two points — but we win."
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