Since then, the season has been one of ups and downs, with sweet stretches like the six-game winning streak in March and rough patches like losing 11 of 14 in February.
The Jazz have integrated four young guys between the ages of 19 and 22 with veterans looking to prove themselves. They absorbed four late-season injuries to key players. And they kept their heads up even when it seemed they might prove their detractors right.
They've taken lumps, but managed to hand out some along the way as well.
"It's a huge accomplishment," Corbin said before the game, referring to the simple fact that the Jazz were in a play-in situation.
"It shows the determination and the character of the guys and the fight and the growth that they've shown and learning from situations early in the year," Corbin added. "There are just so many different things that we've grown through and lessons learned from."
Jefferson credited Corbin for being the glue that got and kept this Jazz team together.
"Coach is not the type of guy that's just going to let us give up," Jefferson said. "I always felt like we had a pretty good team. We just had to go out and play. And the last couple of weeks, that's what we've been doing."
That's what the Jazz did from the opening tip on this TNT-televised tilt. Jefferson, Millsap and DeMarre Carroll scored six straight points for the Jazz to set the tempo early on.
The Suns, who've overcome their own difficulties this season after starting with a 7-13 record, overcame the Jazz's quick start and took their own lead at 17-15 on a Shannon Brown trey.
Josh Howard then entered for the first time in over a month after rehabbing from a knee scope, scoring four quick points and helping the Jazz take a 25-19 lead after one quarter.
Derrick Favors was also instrumental in that late-quarter push with his dominating defense, which included five first-half blocked shots.
Gordon Hayward, Devin Harris and Favors all played strong in the second quarter, leading the Jazz to a 49-42 halftime lead.
Harris and Hayward sent the Jazz into the locker room with something to cheer about. Harris poked the ball away from Nash and it ended up in Hayward's hands. He flung it downcourt to a sprinting Harris, who finished off the sequence with a layup.
The Jazz tried to put the Suns away in the third quarter, going ahead by as many as 10 points before Phoenix trimmed Utah's lead to 73-68 heading into the fourth.
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