Since everybody and their dog seems to be doing Top 10 lists these days, here are my memorable Utah Jazz moments of 2010 (we'll see if my dog ever turns in his part to complete the list of 10):
5 — The Postseason
Sure, Negative Nellies — and probably any of your friends who wear purple and yellow — will point out that the Jazz were eliminated from the playoffs for the third consecutive year by the Los Angeles Lakers. But to even make it to the second round last spring was quite the accomplishment for Utah. Not only were the Jazz matched up against a division champ that was supposedly on the rise, but they also lost Game 1 and Mehmet Okur in Denver. But against all odds, the Jazz won Game 2 in the Mile High City and continued to roll through the Nuggets in six games for an unlikely first-round victory. Following that by getting swept in four games by the Lakers was anti-climactic, but that one series ranks among the franchise's good playoff wins.
4 — The Comebacks
Utah's ability to dig its way into and out of double-digit holes has been the story of this season, no doubt. All of the rallying madness this fall began against the Clippers, when Utah fought back to win in 20T after trailing by 18 points. The Jazz had so much fun teasing the Clippers, they proceeded to beat this L.A. squad two more times after being down by 10 or more points. (Dunk on that, Griffin.) But Utah hasn't only picked on the Clips. The Jazz have won with crazy comebacks 11 times this season, clawing back from a combined lead of 167 points against nine different teams in the process. Even Miami (22 points) and the Lakers (18) have chapters in the turnaround tale. Perhaps the best comeback of 2010? In February, Utah rallied from down 25 at Portland to win in overtime. Good drama. Bad habit. But it beats the alternative.
3 — An All-Star is born
One wrong in the universe — the miniscule portion that the NBA occupies, at least — was righted early in the year when Deron Williams was named to his first All-Star team after playing like one for a few years. Last season was the third year in a row D-Will averaged at least 18.7 points and 10.5 assists. He's only fifth among West guards in voting for All-Star starters, but he should probably make plans for mid-February in Los Angeles where the star-studded showdown will be held. Williams' assists are actually down this year — he's averaging 22.2 points and 9.3 assists — but his clutch game has now elevated to the point where he's being included in MVP discussions. And, yes, those discussions are even happening outside of Utah.
2 — The Offseason of Change
It looked ominous. The inevitable departure of Carlos Boozer finally, mercifully almost, came in July. On top of that, the Jazz lost Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews and their firepower. Then general manager Kevin O'Connor pulled off a titantic trade, acquiring Al Jefferson from Minnesota for Kosta Koufos and his mad dancing skills, a couple of picks and Boozer's farewell gift of a trade exception. Other offseason pick-ups — Raja Bell, Earl Watson, Francisco Elson and Gordon Hayward, particularly — have given the Jazz lifts at times as well. As a bonus, none have tripped over bags, either.
1 — The Shots
Whatever LeBron James does the rest of his career, this much is sure: the South Beach royalty will always be associated with a young guy who'd recently joined the Jazz out of the D-League in January 2010. That ex-Idaho Stampede player, one Sundiata Gaines, will also be forever remembered for his Hollywoodesque buzzer-beating shot last Jan. 14 that gave the Jazz one of the greatest wins in franchise history over the Cleveland LeBrons. Paul Millsap gave James another bitter memory with the Jazz when he unpacked some of his talents to Miami and exploded for a career-high 46 points, including three 3-pointers and a wild overtime-forcing shot in the final 28.7 seconds of the Jazz's eventual and eventful 116-114 OT win. This much was sure after those two performances: James will never use Sundiata3 or Millsap46 as his passwords.
Today vs. Pistons, 7 p.m., FSN
This 11-win Detroit team gives a whole new meaning to the franchise's previous "Bad Boys" nickname.
Wednesday vs. Hawks, 7 p.m., FSN
Hawks, one of the Jazz's many comeback victims, will fly into town after playing in Sacramento the previous night.
Friday at Grizzlies, 6 p.m., FSN
One thing might prevent Memphis from beating Utah after eight straight losses: The Jazz are better on the road.
Saturday at Rockets, 6:30 p.m., FSN
Tough back-to-back for both teams. Houston will be coming from Orlando while Jazz are traveling from Memphis.
The BIG Stat
16 —That's how many times the Jazz have won when leading going into the fourth quarter. Conversely, Utah has only dropped one game when it's been on top after three periods. That 111-98 loss came at home against Miami on Dec. 8 despite being up 78-77 after three quarters.
Rookie has racked up three straight double-digit scoring games.
At least he hasn't been feeling so hot, missing three games due to flu.
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