As Utah's Delaney Rudd toed the foul line in the final seconds of Wednesday night's win over Houston, he was thinking about last Friday night when he missed two foul shots against Seattle with 1.3 seconds left.
This time the game wasn't on the line, like it was five nights earlier (Seattle missed a last-second shot that would have won it). Still Rudd was happy for the opportunity."I wanted to get to the free throw line again just to see if I could make one," said Rudd, who made two.
The free throws capped off a near-perfect evening for the Jazz backup point guard. His line for the night? Try this on for size - 11 points on 4 of 4 from the field, including a 3-pointer, 2 of 2 from the line, 2 assists and a rebound. All that in only 12 minutes of play. The only thing negative in Rudd's performance was a turnover in the final seconds when he was double-teamed.
Besides the raw numbers, more impressive was Rudd's effect on the Jazz victory, particularly during a six-minute stretch at the end of the third quarter. With Rudd directing the offense, the Jazz broke the game open, going from a 60-53 to a 76-61 lead.
"I was trying to push the ball up and get it to the people that were open," he said. "And I tried to pressure on defense, because usually when you pressure good on defense you get turnovers and that triggers the offense."
Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan had high praise for Rudd in his post-game comments. "Delaney Rudd came off the bench and gave us a nice lift," he said. "He was a big spark for us."
Rudd replaced John Stockton, who was in the middle of a typical 15-point, 12-assist night at the 6:16 mark of the third period. Less than 30 seconds after he came in, Rudd buried a 15-footer from the left side to make it 62-53. He assisted on a couple of Malone baskets, one by Karl, one by Jeff, then knocked down another 15-footer. At the one-minute mark he sank his 3-pointer to put the Jazz up by 17 at 76-59.He came back in for the final three minutes of the game and sank another 15-footer and the aforementioned free throws at the end.
It was by far the best performance of the year for Rudd, who was slowed in the preseason with a broken nose. "I don't make excuses, but I missed the exhibition season and lost a lot of time. Your timing's just not there, but it's starting to come together now."
Earlier in the week Sloan took Rudd aside and told him he needed to concentrate and be ready to play at all times. "He's in a tough position playing behind John. But he's got to be ready to concentrate every time out."
Rudd said his confidence level is up after Friday's game.
"I needed one like that. It's a big game for me, because it carries over. When you're a backup and you get one of these, usually you start to play better."