SALT LAKE CITY — Down the stretch, when it was supposed to be all about the Miami Heat taking charge, an odd thing happened on Saturday.
The Jazz beat the NBA champion Miami Heat, 94-89.
Weird thing was, a night after almost no one was prepared, everybody stole a scene. It was like the cast of “The Dirty Dozen.”
So for one night, to end a four-game losing streak, the Jazz were just what coach Tyrone Corbin hoped they’d be: tough, tenacious and adaptable. The young players had their moments, but the older ones did too.
Giving up on the Jazz isn’t as easy as it looks.
Marvin Williams horribly missed a couple of times, yet swished back-to-back 3s in the clutch to hold back Miami’s predictable rally. One of the baskets, at the end of the shot clock, after a clumsy possession, was enough to make an atheist reconsider.
Richard Jefferson’s score with 1:26 to go stretched the Jazz’s lead to an insurmountable six.
Then rookie Trey Burke made a pull-up jumper a minute later and it was decided.
The Heat were cooked.
So that’s what the Jazz were thinking when they put this group together.
You might call it a multi-use development, young and old living happily side-by-side.
It just so happened they decided to get their act together against the best team in the NBA.
““We always get up for that team and their players,” Corbin said. “Miami is the best team in the league and best team in the world. They’re used to it every night. They’re the best team and the guys want to show themselves against the best team.”
The win came a day after the Jazz looked dreadful in Dallas.
Weirdly, the Jazz have defeated the Heat at least once in five straight seasons. This is the Jazz: wins over Oklahoma City and Miami, ticketed for the NBA Finals this spring, but losses to Cleveland and New Orleans.
When the Heat come to town, the temperature goes up. There were dozens if not hundreds of Miami shirts and hats in the stands. A normal media contingent outside the visiting locker room at EnergySolutions Arena is 10 or 12. But when Miami shows up, it's 30. Why shouldn’t there be? Miami isn’t far removed from its second visit to the White House, in which President Barack Obama joked, “We all know nothing brings people together like the Miami Heat.”
The best team money can buy, right?
Considering the star power and the city, it is no surprise the Heat are on the gossip pages as often as sports.
Meanwhile, before Saturday, the Jazz seemed to be dragging into the All-Star break. Chief among the question marks was Gordon Hayward, whose year has been nothing if not puzzling.
“He’s not the only one,” said Corbin. “They’ve played a lot of basketball, and Gordon — his role is different for this team. It’s a huge role, we’ve asked a lot of him, put a lot on him and Derek (Favors) and Enes (Kanter) and Trey (Burke). They’re playing different roles for us, but they are who we have, and you’ve got to find out how to get yourself ready when you’re not your best.”
Though far from perfect, Hayward also came close to a triple-double with nine points, 11 assists and nine rebounds. Kanter went on a burst that helped inch the Jazz into the lead for good. And Burke hit a pull-up jumper with 24 seconds to go that was a finishing touch.
“This is what we want,” Corbin said of his young players. “It's what you guys want, a bigger role. Well guess what? Here we go.
“So they’ve got to learn from it, and they’re getting better. It’s a fight right now, and it becomes a job for you after awhile, but it’s part of being young and finding out who you are and how you have to work to be successful in this league.”
On Saturday, everyone was feeling young at heart.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @therockmonster; Blog: Rockmonster Unplugged