Utah Jazz: How will the Jazz fare after thrilling win?
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz's pandemonium-inciting win over the mighty Cleveland Cavaliers and the even mightier LeBron James late Thursday night, no doubt, will be remembered and talked about for years.
And Sundiata Gaines' future grandkids won't be the only ones doing the listening.
Yep, this nationally televised thriller — a 97-96 Jazz heart-pounding, nail-biting victory highlighted by a last-second, game-winning 3-pointer by the new kid on the block, some eye-popping plays by Kyle Korver, comebacks galore and an all-around wild fourth quarter — will go down as one of the franchise's magical moments.
The buzz lasted long after the buzzer-beater and well after Utah's celebrating rookie hero came down off of the scorer's table.
Less than 12 hours after shocking James and his 30-11 Cavs crew — and providing sports media and fans with one heckuva story — the surging 22-17 Jazz reconvened for practice and were still acting giddy and geeked on Friday morning.
And not just the players, mind you.
"It was wonderful to see it happen," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, whose team hosts the Milwaukee Bucks tonight. "Our players are very excited about it and our coaches are very excited about it."
Gaines, the 10-day man of the hour, was still trying to avoid pinching himself.
"You can't really describe it," said the former D-League player, who earned a second 10-day contract before his big shot and perhaps much more after the play. "You can talk about it as much as possible, but the feeling is something else, and miraculous."
Korver — the man who made the overlooked Miracle Shot No. 1 in the final seconds — called it one of the top five finishes he's ever seen.
Andrei Kirilenko described the ending as being "crazy" and "unbelievable to watch" on TV, something he and Deron Williams had to do from the training room because of injuries.
Wesley Matthews was still raving about the win, too.
"It was amazing," he said. "It was a lot of fun, and I was glad I was able to be a part of it."
But while most of the buzzing has reverberated on Gaines' shot — and deservingly so — there were certainly other buzz-worthy moments in Utah's third-straight win.
Such as when Korver looked like he'd decided to try out for the Harlem Globetrotters.
In the official play-by-play report, Korver's tricky basket, which trimmed LeBron's lead to 95-94 with 5.9 seconds left, was simply called a 19-foot jump shot. No mention that the sharpshooter hurriedly got and shot the ball from behind the basket at an angle on the baseline while falling out of bounds.
What was Korver thinking?
Even he was surprised at what was going through his mind.
When he was younger, the shooting guard used to watch Larry Bird hit a behind-the-bucket shot on a video called "Dazzling Dunks and Basketball Bloopers." The fond memory popped in his head as he rushed over to get the inbounds pass from Paul Millsap and then put up a quick shot to ensure the Jazz could still foul and have time for a last-second attempt.
"I just remember the announcer. He's like, 'Over the backboard, ooooh!' " Korver recalled. "And I was thinking about that as I caught it and I was like, 'OK, it's over the backboard!' "
Ooooh! Just like he's done against his brothers and friends for years.
"I've shot that shot hundreds of times in H-O-R-S-E games," he said. "It's just what you do."
It wasn't the only highlight-reel-worthy Korver play.
Fans didn't need to adjust their TV sets. That indeed was Korver who blocked one of James' shots off the backboard in the second quarter.
"I don't think I was up there really that high," a smiling Korver explained, "but the timing was right and Deron cut him off and (James) had to try to lay it in. I jumped off my good leg and was able to get a little piece of it."
Don't forget about the behind-the-back pass to Carlos Boozer for a layup, either.
In other words, this wasn't your typical 39th game of the season.
"I think what makes it even better is the whole story," Korver said.
Rewind to earlier in the game and recall that Kirilenko left with a hyperextended knee and Williams exited at the beginning of the fourth quarter after respraining his right wrist.
Then there were the incredible momentum shifts.
Cleveland went up by 12, but Utah then rallied to a 13-point lead with 4:39 to go. Then James exploded for 18 of his 36 points in a late 20-2 spurt, and the Cavaliers suddenly led again by six, 91-85, with 32.5 seconds remaining.
Oh, yeah, and that's when Boozer fouled out.
"Our not-die attitude (Thursday), it was strong," Paul Millsap said. "You seen a lot of hearts out there, guys played well down the stretch and we didn't quit."
And they saved their wildest for the final 29 seconds.
First, Ronnie Price atoned for an earlier turnover that led to James' 3-pointer by drilling his own long ball. Shortly after, he and Millsap each sank two free throws.
Meanwhile, Cleveland's Anthony Parker and Zydrunas Ilguaskas missed 3-of-6 freebies in the last 22 seconds. Then Mo Williams fouled out and Gaines was subbed back in to foul someone quickly and not so he could hit a game-winner.
All of which led up to those final sweet shots by Korver and Gaines, the now-famous 23-year-old who had helped spark a 15-0 run earlier in the quarter.
"Not the way you'd draw it up," Korver admitted.
James going "nuts" in the fourth? And big runs by both sides?
Those parts, Korver said, were believable.
All the rest of the wackiness just made it all the sweeter.
"You'd believe a lot of it until the very end, but to hit the shots that we hit, then the missed free throws? A lot of things had to work out and they did," Korver said. "And (Gaines) hit a big shot at the end, and it was a really fun game."
Even Sloan couldn't help but celebrate like something special had just happened. And it had.
"I was thrilled to death," the Hall of Fame coach said. "That's a once-in-a-lifetime thing for just about anybody. There aren't a lot of Michael Jordans around."
Bucks at Jazz
Saturday, 7 p.m.
Radio: 1320AM, 98.7FM
TV: FSN Utah
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