Heading into Wednesday night's matchup with Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, Utah Jazz forward Richard Jefferson had been working through a rough patch. The 13th-year veteran had made only eight of his last 30 shots over the previous three games, including a 1-for-11 mark from 3-point range, and the Jazz were a combined -41 in the 78-plus minutes he'd played in those contests; Utah lost all of them, dropping to 0-8 on the season and looking for all the world like the worst team in the NBA.
You can understand, then, why the folks in the production truck working Wednesday's Jazz/Pelicans affair might not have been totally prepared to queue up Jefferson highlights and shot charts, and why they might have been caught somewhat by surprise when the Arizona product began to bust out of his slump at the expense of Monty Williams' team. I mean, like, they seemed really surprised:
Ah, those accursed templates. Time-savers, to be sure, but so much danger lies within them, too!
Super-generic descriptors aside, Jefferson did make a major impact for Tyrone Corbin's squad on Wednesday, breaking out in the third quarter with nine points in a little over three minutes to turn a 16-point deficit into a much more manageable seven-point hole. First, he found some long-lost rhythm on his jumper, thanks to the cushion he was being given by the likes of defenders Al Farouq Aminu, Jason Smith and Eric Gordon; then, after he'd drained three in a row, Aminu responded to a ball-swing with a hard closeout, which Jefferson immediately attacked, blowing by the younger defender and heading right down the middle of the lane for a dunk that sent a surge through the Energy Solutions Arena crowd.
Jefferson and Gordon Hayward combined for 20 points in the third quarter, while center Enes Kanter added six points and eight boards to get Utah within two possessions heading to the fourth. The wing pairing kept it up in the fourth, combining for 19 points (on 9 for 10 shooting from the foul line, thanks in large part to consistent rim attacks) and partnering with a third amigo as unlikely as Jefferson — largely forgotten dunk foil Marvin Williams, who chipped in eight points, four boards and two big late 3-pointers in the final frame — to propel the Jazz toward their first win of the season, a 111-105 win over a Pelicans team that's getting a ton from rising star Davis (29 points and 15 rebounds in 35 1/2 minutes) but couldn't string together any stops against a Utah team that entered Wednesday ranked dead last in the NBA in points per possession, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Head coach Williams has some pieces to play with — he finally got some simultaneously strong play from the guard trio of Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon last night, which is nice — but he's also got plenty of questions to answer, and quickly, if the 3-6 Pelicans are to be considered a legitimate threat to reach for a lower-tier Western Conference playoff berth.
NOLA drama aside, though, the Jazz earned a hard-fought win behind Hayward's 27 points and 10 assists, Williams' surprising 12 points and nine rebounds, dual double-doubles from the interior combo of Kanter and Derrick Favors (who locked down the front of the rim late in the game) and some sharp point-guard play from newly signed D-League standout Diante Garrett (seven points and five assists in 22 minutes in his debut, with some good decision-making and nice bounce passes late). When the Jazz balladeers of the future sing songs of this night, though, they'll surely lead their verse with three cheers for the 22 points, four assists, three rebounds and third-quarter spark provided by that valiant wing hero, Firstname Lastname.
Screencap via @trevorhale.
- - - - - - -