With the Utah Jazz well on their way to a fifth straight win on Monday night, holding a 14-point lead over the Portland Trail Blazers with three minutes remaining, coach Ty Corbin decided to end star forward Paul Millsap's night a bit early and give little-used third-year pro Jeremy Evans a few minutes of run. For the most part, this is Evans' lot in life — after appearing in just 78 of 148 games during his first two seasons, he's gotten in 34 of Utah's 75 games this year, playing six minutes or fewer in 25 of them. We know Evans can dunk (and that he's something of a painter, if perhaps a misunderstood one), but in Utah's stacked frontcourt rotation, he's rarely shown enough of an all-around game to get an opportunity to translate his athleticism into meaningful on-court production. (Outside of preseason games, that is.)
Three minutes of burn at the end of a game isn't exactly a ton of time to do something noteworthy. But the 6-foot-9 jumping jack managed to shake us from our garbage-time slumber after a missed midrange jumper by Blazers guard Will Barton, thanks to a very optimistic lob from veteran Jazz point guard Jamaal Tinsley that forced us to rewind the ol' DVR a few times:
Even if you didn't know Utah was in command of the game, you could probably tell who was winning based on how the two teams responded to the transition opportunity — the Jazz pressing to make something happen on the break, the Blazers seeming wholly disinterested in stopping the ball, Evans running the floor hard after the rebound and, of course, Nolan Smith falling fast asleep in the paint as the pass went up and Evans soared in to snag and slam it. If you want to get your coach's attention, going all-out in the few minutes you do receive is a pretty good way to do it, so kudos to Evans for having his sprint meter maxed out after Barton's miss.
The crazy thing about this play, though, is how much ground Evans had to cover to convert the alley-oop. Check out where he was when Tinsley threw the lob pass, as screen-grabbed by SB Nation's Mike Prada:
That's a long way to go. (Screencap via @MikePradaSBN)
He's a full step behind the 3-point arc on the right wing as Tinsley — who's been known to get flashy when given an opportunity — lofts the lob, but all it takes is three loping strides and a well-timed leap for Evans to make the connection look seamless. If you're going to take and make one shot during three minutes of late-game play, this is a pretty good way to do it.
As for the game itself, Utah controlled matters virtually from jump street, leading by as many as 19 in the fourth quarter and holding on for a 112-102 win that gave the Jazz a 1/2-game lead over the idle Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The inside-out duo of center Al Jefferson (24 points on 12 for 21 shooting, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks) and point guard Mo Williams (20 points, 6 for 7 from 3-point range, nine assists and just one turnover) led the way for Utah, who improved to 28-9 at home on the season.
The loss dealt a major blow to the Trail Blazers' already faint playoff hopes, dropping them to 33-41, 5 1/2 games behind Utah with just eight games remaining on their schedule.
If the clip above isn't rocking for you, feel free to check out the 'oop elsewhere, thanks to SB Nation's Mike Prada.
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