As is the case each year when NBA teams reach the final quarter of the regular season, every game is magnified in importance. Such is the case for the Utah Jazz as they find themselves mired in a contested, crowded Western Conference playoff race. In a heartbreaking loss Monday night, the Milwaukee Bucks did enough in overtime to defeat the Jazz, 109-108.
It was an exciting game that had it all: dramatic shots, sweeping shot blocks, stellar outside shooting, tough defense and runs for both teams. Utah and Milwaukee went back and forth, with the former leading most of the first half and the latter enjoying a dominating third quarter — a thorn in the Jazz’s side. Utah battled back and actually had a late three-point lead, only for Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings to make a tough triple to knot things up.
In the overtime, J.J. Redick was the hero for Milwaukee, as he scored eight of his 17 in the extra session, including a pair of back-breaking 3-pointers.
Besting the Backcourt: It is not a secret that the Bucks rely heavily on the dynamic, dangerous duo of Monta Ellis and Jennings. While their fast-paced, frenetic play can sometimes hurt their team, it can also propel the Bucks to some exciting wins. Monday night’s win was evidence of that, as they were dominant.
Jennings, who is sometimes maligned for not being a “pure” point guard, played one of the most well-rounded games of his career. He controlled the pace for the Bucks, handing out 17 assists (compared to three turnovers). Jennings also shot an efficient 8 of 14, including 4 of 5 3-pointers, en route to a 20-point night. His backcourt mate, Ellis, was equally effective from the floor, going 15 of 21 for a game-high 34 points. He made some acrobatic shots that really hurt the Jazz at key moments.
While their backups faced Ellis and Jennings more, it is hard to ignore the fact that Utah’s starting backcourt of Randy Foye and Earl Watson went scoreless.
This and That:
• The scoreless Jazz trio of Foye, Watson, and Marvin Williams went 0-15 from the field in 52 combined minutes. It was just five games ago when three Jazz starters played an entire game without scoring. As a result, only six players scored for Utah.
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-- Utah reserves Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter and DeMarre Carroll teamed up to put 63 points on the board.
-- Larry Sanders did his thing, grabbing 16 rebounds and swatting away six shots.
-- Derrick Favors had 23 points and 15 rebounds through three quarters, but remained on the bench for the final 17 minutes of the night.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.