MIAMI — On Nov. 9, 2010, the Utah Jazz were trailing the mighty Miami Heat by eight points with 29 seconds remaining at American Airlines Arena. A win for the star-studded team that got a triple-double from LeBron James and 39 points from Dwyane Wade seemed all but locked up in Hot Rod Hundley's old refrigerator.
At that point, a Jazz comeback seemed impossible.
Absolutely against all odds.
Even more improbable than this road-inept Jazz squad sneaking in and stealing a victory from the defending NBA champions tonight.
Miss Bettye's son begged to differ.
With 28 seconds to go and trailing 98-90, Paul Millsap hit a rare 3-pointer. Deron Williams followed that with a long ball with 21 seconds remaining, and then the Jazz power forward really went to work.
In a wild 12-second stretch, Millsap hit two 3-pointers and tossed in a missed C.J. Miles game-winning attempt at the buzzer to force overtime after Miami's Wade and Carlos Arroyo missed enough free throws to keep the Jazz alive.
The man of the night, Millsap, had 46 points, with 11 of his career-high scoring output coming in the final 28 memorable seconds of regulation. Boozer who?
"It takes some special plays in order for us to be in the game," former Jazz guard Ronnie Price said at the time. "And Miss Bettye's son was special tonight."
"Miss Bettye's son — that's Paul Millsap if y'all don't know — just carried us, put us on his back," added then-Jazz point guard Deron Williams. "Just the way he played was great. It was brilliant. His back's going to be hurting tomorrow from carrying us."
Utah went on to stun the Heat 116-114 in overtime for one of the most memorable regular-season games in the franchise's 36-year history. Backup center Francisco Elson, of all players, hit the game-clinching free throws.
"I think Paul Millsap just rubbed off on me," Elson said. "I couldn't miss."
That crazy comeback — in a season of crazy comebacks, if you recall the 2010-11 campaign — lives on in Jazz lore as the Millsap Miracle in Miami.
"I think it shocked them a little bit tonight. It is speechless to be down like that to a team like this in a hostile environment and come out with a win," Millsap said in the visitors' locker room that fall night. "We clawed our way out of there. But that says a lot about our team."
Twenty-five months later, Millsap sounded awfully similar while taking a stroll through Miami memory lane before the Jazz's practice Friday morning in the Heat's arena.
"I know we won the game. That was the main thing — we won the game. I know it was a good team victory for us," Millsap said when asked to reflect back. "All I remember (is) that's the game where we started clicking as a team. That was the game that did it for us."
OK, even as humble as Millsap is — and as much as he tried not to make that game about him — the Jazz forward did remember just a little bit more about his incredible performance on that court. Interestingly, Millsap briefly left that game with a bruised hip injury after scoring 31 points in the first three quarters.
"It just felt good, man. It felt good," Millsap said, cracking a slight smile. "I got in a nice rhythm, a nice zone, and just didn't look back."
While teammates humorously honored Millsap by calling him his mother's son, Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan couldn't help but heap praise onto one of his favorite lunch pail-toting players.
"He shows you what he's about. That's one of the things, when it gets tough he doesn't quit working," Sloan said. "That's why he's gotten to be better and works at the game to make himself better. How many people would've thought three years ago or four years ago he would be able to make three 3-point shots in a row?"
Center Al Jefferson, only a few weeks into his Jazz career, sat out the fourth quarter and overtime session, and D-Will didn't play in OT, either. But guys like Price, Miles, Andrei Kirilenko, Kyrylo Fesenko and Elson made contributions to help the Jazz dig out of deficits, including a four-point hole in OT.
"It was like a sense of awe. I think we kind of surprised ourselves that night," Millsap recalled. "Everybody was kind of amazed and really didn't know what happened. We collectively worked together to win that game."
Big Al said it "definitely" ranks on the top of his all-time great games list, even though he was in a front-row seat instead of playing in crunch time.
"(Paul) went on a rampage. I was on the bench watching like, 'Wow,'" Jefferson said. "We were down eight points with (30) something seconds. He's hitting 3s. They're missing free throws. Going into overtime and win it. It was amazing to watch that."
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, Sloan's assistant at the time, breathed out an "Ooooh" before formulating words.
"It was exciting to see 3 after 3 after 3 after 3 go in the basket," Corbin said, giving Millsap the extra 3-pointer as a better-with-time bonus. "The momentum changed, and it was late in the game.
"To see our guys' energy level just kind of increase as each shot went in and each possession we had and the focus went up," he continued. "It was a great, intense moment for us."
Corbin sees the comeback as a prime testament of not giving up.
"There are examples all the time in this league that you get and you try and teach and tell the guys, 'Look, you've got to play it out. If there's time left on the clock, you never know what can happen,'" the third-year coach said. "And that was one of those examples where a team looked like they had control of the game and you make a shot; then you make another shot; you get a stop and you make another shot; and you're right back there in the game."1 comment on this story
Last season, the Jazz didn't get a return invitation to Miami after the schedule was rearranged due to the lockout — hmmm, conspiracy theory? — so this will be their first game back in South Beach since Millsap's outburst.
"It happened so long ago," Millsap said. "Hopefully, we can try to make a miracle happen tonight."
That's not to say Millsap, who shot 19-for-28 overall and hit 3-for-3 from deep two years ago, will have free range beyond the arc.
He did laugh when that was suggested, but added, "I'm not going to come out and just start jacking 3s because of that."
As a friendly tip, you might not want to turn the TV off with 30 seconds remaining even if the Jazz are losing ... just in case.