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And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you lose a game in the NBA.
Let it be known that basketball is the kind of sport where you can play hard and efficiently all game long, but if you’re unable to shut the door on your opponent, your efforts that got you in that position becomes utterly pointless because it can all turn in the blink of an eye. What happened tonight is what seperates good teams from the Wolves. Their inexperience and plain stupidity in just a 30-second stretch is what lost this game.
In what everyone thought was going to be a sure win after holding a 15-point lead near the end of the third, the inevitable struck down from the basketballs gods above and shocked everyone in the arena. But really, should we be shocked at all? This is a team that hasn’t closed the door on really anyone outside the Clippers this year to take a victory away they they actually want it. When they have their opponent on the edge, they need to learn how to kick them off with no remorse.
It’s a shame to see the efforts of our starters go to waste. Everyone but Darko cashed in a solid performance tonight. Love was one rebound shy of yet another 20-20 game. Beasley recorded a double-double and doing it on an efficient 9-16 shooting. Ridnour played to his true ability tonight — Hallelujah — commanding the offense and attacking the paint with no fear; And maybe best of all, he nailed some shots. Even Wes Johnson joined in by sinking four from deep, but did seem to fade away slowly in the second half.
With all this going on, the Jazz weren’t hitting shots through the first three quarters. Al Jefferson couldn’t get anything going in the first half. Deron Williams was practically translucent, failing to get anything to fall, inside and out. The only positive thing for the Jazz was a hot Paul Millsap, but he quickly ran into foul trouble in the second half, forcing Jerry Sloan to sit him down for the majority of the third quarter.
The Wolves simply had everything going their way. The Jazz would try to overcome their deficiencies in the third, only to be violently pushed back by two and-one’s from Beasley. And even in the fourth, when the Jazz were starting to slowly claw their way back, the Wolves weren’t letting up going bucket-for-bucket with them in the final two minutes. They just didn’t want to let go, as they should.
But, like I said earlier, if you let up on the gas for even one split second, a seasoned team like the Utah Jazz will make you pay for it. Martell Webster forces the go-ahead three — a bad shot nonetheless — and then the Wolves let the Jazz pass it up court with no dribbling, just the way you’re taught to avoid a press, and find Gordon Hayward who then slams it home and draws a very stupid foul from Webster himself. Let’s just say Webster had a rough-go in that one possession.
Again, I feel like a broken record player here, this is the difference between teams like the Jazz and the Wolves. The Jazz are well-coached and experienced, and when you put together that kind of combination, you get a team that never rolls over and dies. They geared up the pressure on defense during crunch time and never stalled on offense. When you know Kevin Love already has five fouls and Darko’s fouled out, the Jazz knew to go straight at Love with Jefferson’s abusive post game, knowing he was essentially defenseless. When Martell Webster had a hot-hand and was fuming off adrenaline, they knew to pressure him into a shot he didn’t want, and then draw a huge foul from him on the other end consequently. That’s the definition of a well-coached team that knows how to get it done and get your coach the win.
As much as the Wolves needed this win tonight, they’re going to have to wait til after Christmas when they head to Cleveland on Sunday night.