I just found a rhythm, found a zone. My teammates did a great job of finding me and going to me, and I just knocked down shots. —Paul Millsap
DENVER — Remember that one time Paul Millsap entered molten mode against the Miami Heat?
Of course you do.
No offense to that 46-point Millsap masterpiece, but that was so last season.
It was cold outside of Pepsi Center and there were no sandy beaches anywhere to be found here Sunday night.
Millsap brought that South Beach-like sizzle into the Mile High City during the Utah Jazz's 106-96 win over the Denver Nuggets.
The Jazz's starting power forward didn't hit any 3-pointers this time, but that's only because he scored so quickly and so often in his fourth-quarter flurry that he didn't have time to get beyond the arc.
Millsap scored 16 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Jazz pick up their most impressive win of the season.
"I just found a rhythm, found a zone," Millsap said. "My teammates did a great job of finding me and going to me, and I just knocked down shots."
After shots after shots.
Millsap dropped seven shots and 14 points in a row — dunking, twisting, fading, turn-arounding, everything — during a five-minute stretch in the fourth quarter when the Jazz turned a tenuous lead into a comfortable win.
It was quite the run for the sixth-year Jazzman, who's been on a roll lately (including a 29-point outing against the Lakers on Wednesday).
"Once he gets in that zone, he's hard to handle," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "And he was in that zone tonight."
As the cool kids say, the Nuggets got Millslapped.
"He is really impressive," Denver coach George Karl said. "I think he is the key to the Jazz."
By the way, Karl said that during his pregame interview — a couple hours before Millsap hit 8 of 10 shots, grabbed three of his 12 rebounds and dished out two assists in the game-clinching fourth quarter alone.
"Millsap had a 10-to-12 minute stretch where he was the best player on the court," Karl said, after the game.
Utah was playing its guts out and had a four-point lead when Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin called for Millsap to re-enter the game with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth.
That's when Denver made a tactical error.
The Nuggets put small forward Danilo Gallinari on Millsap, who proceeded to dunk, hit a short jumper and score a layup in less than a minute.
Denver then tried throwing a couple other guys at Millsap, including 6-9 Al Harrington and the 6-11 Nene.
Did that work?
No and no.
"It was a mismatch. We tried to expose it," Millsap said. "Normally when we see a mismatch, that's what we do. Our team is very unselfish, and they find the guy with the mismatch."
That's what makes Millsap such an effective player for the Jazz. Sure, at 6-8 he's an undersized power forward.
Heck, Karl admitted before the game that he didn't think Millsap was an NBA prospect when he watched him playing at Louisiana Tech.
"I don't get paid to scout, though, either," Karl quipped.
Karl credited Millsap for his "basketball knack," which knocked the Nuggets off their perch after they'd crushed Utah 117-100 on Dec. 28 in Denver and even beaten Miami a couple days prior to this (mis)matchup.
"He got hot at the right time," Utah's Big Al said. "They started doubling on me, and in my opinion, they kind of disrespected him by putting a three man (Gallinari) on him. I think he had an advantage and he got hot."
Corbin loves that Millsap can take big guys away from the basket and can make smaller guys look silly closer to the hoop — which he did often Sunday.
"He had a mismatch and it was within the flow of the offense," Corbin said. "But it's going to end up in his hands when a guy's going that good. It's an asset for us and he's capable of making the passes, but he had a one-on-one situation (and) he made great plays."
Best part on this night — when Utah picked up its second road win in a row — was that Millsap had company.
Jefferson was hot early and finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Gordon Hayward played aggressively on both ends of the court, finishing with 19 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and a steal.
Devin Harris added 10 points and seven assists while playing tough defense against Denver's lightning-quick Ty Lawson. And the Jazz even got another big Colorado show from former Buff Alec Burks, who filled in for the injured Josh Howard (quad) and scored 10 points in his return to his college state.35 comments on this story
Nene and Gallinari had 18 points apiece for Denver (8-5), which fell behind the Jazz (8-4), winners of six of seven, in the Northwest Division standings. Now Utah has four in a row at home, beginning with Tuesday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Millsap deflected the praise from him to the Jazz's defense, which hustled and harassed Denver to 42.7 percent shooting and held the Nuggets to 21 points below what they had in their first Mile-High meeting.
"I think our defense did a great job in that fourth quarter, keeping guys out of the paint, keeping Ty Lawson away from the basket," Millsap said. "We contained Nene. On the defensive end is where we did it."
At least when he wasn't making bucket after bucket.