Ask a Schoolhouse Rock aficionado or a Utah Jazz fan tonight, and they’ll let you in on a little secret: 3 really is the magic number. The Utah Jazz traveled to Toronto to take on the Raptors, and the triple-overtime battle that ensued was not only the game of the night, but probably the game of the young season. Let’s take a look at how the Jazz outlasted the Raptors, 140-133, with (you guessed it) three things to consider:
The “three bigs” lineup
The nice thing about a triple-overtime game for the Jazz? More minutes for everyone — especially Derrick Favors. It can be tricky for Jazz head coach Ty Corbin to find time for his young frontcourt stud, but with the Raptors not having anyone remotely threatening at the small forward position, it gave Corbin the green light to play Paul Millsap (34 points, 9 rebounds) at small forward. That meant plenty of time for Utah’s jumbo package, as Millsap, Favors and Al Jefferson played a great deal of the game on the floor together. The three-headed monster was huge offensively (we’ll get to that), but defensively Favors erased Andrea Bargnani almost entirely. After Bargnani started the first quarter hot with 10 points in roughly 10 minutes, he would go on to score just nine points in the next 39 minutes of floor time he received. Most of that was due to Favors, who contested shots (like Millsap couldn’t) and stayed in front of Bargnani off the dribble (like Jefferson couldn’t). Utah’s big 3 may be, well, big, but they’re capable of filling entirely different roles on the court. Which leads us to…
Jefferson and Millsap…for 3?
As if he wasn’t frightening enough as an offensive rebounder and strong finisher at the rim, it appears Paul Millsap has extended his shooting range out to 3-point land, where is he now 8-for-12 (no, really) on the season. Millsap’s long-range shooting has been so infectious, apparently, that even Al Jefferson (24 points, 17 rebounds) had to give it a shot. With the clock against them and the Jazz down three in regulation, Jefferson popped behind the 3-point line and received a pass from a double-teamed Randy Foye…and had the game-tying bucket rattle around and drop after hitting every inch of the rim. Not to be outdone, Millsap stroked a huge 3-pointer in the third overtime that essentially put the Raptors away after a long night (DeMar DeRozan played 60 minutes, somehow) of going back and forth with a resilient, shorthanded squad.
Three things: Past, Present and Future
Last year, the Utah Jazz were 26h in the league in 3-point percentage, shooting an abysmal 32.3 percent from deep. But tonight, thanks in large part to Lob City castaways Mo Williams and Randy Foye, the Utah Jazz shot 14-for-26 (53.8 percent) from behind the arc. That hot perimeter shooting ultimately led the Jazz to an exhausting victory, and as long as this game was, it’s tough to read too much into small sample sizes. However, if Millsap’s early season 3-point shooting isn’t just a fluke, Ty Corbin is going to have a tough time turning down the potential and production that Derrick Favors brings to the court.
And then there’s this — no Utah lineup featuring Millsap-Favors-Jefferson has a negative plus/minus rating so far this season, and last year, that frontcourt pairing was Utah’s best lineup — a whopping +38.81 in adjusted plus/minus and +40.48 in overall rating (the positive difference between offensive rating and defensive rating). The idea behing the jumbo lineup has legs (very tall, muscular legs) and as exciting as tonight was, it’s time to see it in more than just triple-overtime marathons.