Paul Millsap - Russ Isabella - USA Today Sports Images
Utah's center and power forward combined for 53 of the team's 87 points as the Jazz ended the visiting Magic's winning streak.
The Utah Jazz ended the visiting Orlando Magic's winning streak at two games on Wednesday night, holding on for an 87-81 victory behind a season-high 31 points from Al Jefferson and another 22 points from Paul Millsap. Utah led by as much as 14 in the game, but Orlando rallied to take a one-point lead--its first lead since it held a 2-1 edge 62 seconds into the first quarter--with less than three minutes to go. Jazz guard Randy Foye nailed a three-pointer, his only basket and the Jazz's only three-pointer of the game, on Utah's ensuing possession to take the lead for good, and Jefferson scored on each of the Jazz's next two trips to put the game away.
Orlando worked its way back into the game in the fourth quarter by cutting its turnovers and simply making shots. Without turnovers to fuel their own offense, the Jazz struggled to put points on the board.
The Magic defended Jefferson's first clutch basket, a baby hook just outside the charge circle, fairly well. Nikola Vučević forced the 289-pounder to catch the ball in a face-up position approximately 20 feet from the hoop on the right wing. But with just one dribble and one shoulder to Vučević's chest, Jefferson made his way into the paint for the score. His jumper on the next possession put Utah up four.
An apparent back injury cut Jefferson's night short as he came up holding his back and unable to walk under his own power following a rebound of a missed J.J. Redick triple. Despite Jefferson's absence for the game's final 1:29, Orlando failed to score.
One wonders how the game might have gone differently if either team, particularly Orlando, had been able to score from beyond the arc. The Magic missed 14 of their 15 three-point attempts, which inability to shoot hampered their comeback efforts.
Glen Davis led the Magic with 18 points and added 12 rebounds for his second double-double in three games, while Vučević grabbed seven of his game-high 16 rebounds at the offensive end. Arron Afflalo scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half.
Millsap broke out his slump in a big way in the first half, scoring 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting; the veteran power forward had shot 42 percent from the floor in Utah's last three games, all losses. Davis simply could not match his strength or physicality inside.
Indeed, nobody from the Magic rose to the challenges Millsap and Jefferson presented them, as Utah scored 30 of its 45 first-half points in the painted area, shooting 15-of-27 from that range; Orlando had just 14 paint points before intermission.
Turnovers, which the Magic had curbed in their two prior victories on this Western trip, did them in: the Jazz turned Orlando's 12 miscues into 11 first-half points and recorded steals on eight of those turnovers. The live-ball turnovers proved killer for Orlando, as they enabled the Jazz to get easy, run-out buckets. In the first two quarters, Utah blanked Orlando, 13-0, on the fast break.
The Magic's first-half offense was a mess largely due to a lack of ball movement, as they recorded assists on just five of their 14 baskets. Utah closed out on Orlando's spot-up shooters well, forcing them to put the ball on the deck, and then rotating soundly to take away potential kick-outs to other would-be shooters.
Orlando fixed its first-half issues in the third quarter, or for most of it, anyway. A reverse layup by Redick at the 2:59 mark of that quarter closed the Jazz's lead to three, but Utah coach Tyrone Corbin adjusted his defense to get his squad back into the game: he instituted a full-court press, which press Orlando looked woefully unprepared to face. The Jazz closed the third on a 10-2 run, thanks to forcing the only four turnovers would commit in the quarter, to take an 11-point lead into the fourth, a lead identical to the one the hosts took into the locker room at halftime: all the good Orlando did in the opening nine minutes of the third amounted to nothing on the scoreboard.
Utah's great defensive stand to end the third, coupled with the clutch baskets by Jefferson and Foye, prevented the Magic from picking up their third straight win. Apart from those sequences, the Magic did just about everything they needed to after halftime in order to win: it limited the Jazz scoreless on the fastbreak and outscored the hosts, 30-16, in the paint.
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