Paul Millsap watched his potential game-winning layup roll off the rim at the end of regulation and hung his head in disbelief. He then promised himself he wouldn’t let this game get away in overtime.
Gordon Hayward scored 18 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, and Millsap made a flurry of key plays in the final minute to lead the Utah Jazz past the Minnesota Timberwolves 111-105 on Thursday night.
”Our team had fought too hard to lose that game, so I had to be aggressive,” Millsap said after tallying 16 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high eight steals. ”We have too much on the line as we try and get into the playoffs. We’re right there but we have to leave it all out on the court every game.”
Millsap stole the ball twice in the final minute of overtime, made a key jumper and fed Hayward for a dunk as Utah scored the final six points.
”One word for Paul: heart! He just don’t give up. Anybody, including me, could have have just felt sorry for himself when you miss a layup that could’ve won the game, but not Paul,” Al Jefferson said.
Devin Harris scored 18 points and Alec Burks had a career-best 15 as he replaced CJ Miles in the bench rotation and played the entire fourth quarter and overtime.
Kevin Love had 25 points and 16 rebounds, Nikola Pekovic scored 20 and Luke Ridnour had 18 points and 13 assists for Minnesota.
”We just couldn’t get a rebound when it mattered,” Love said. ”We played them tough, they played tough, but they prevailed in the end because they made the plays.”
The Jazz led 84-80 in the fourth quarter and there was little energy amidst the one of the season’s smallest crowds in the normally raucous Energy Solution Arena. Millsap immediately changed the tenor of the game with three consecutive steals that led to two dunks and a standing ovation.
”I don’t want to be sitting there next summer, thinking of games like this and saying, `I wish I would have done this or that.’ We’re going to put it all on the line,” Millsap said.
Millsap, who was the subject of several trade rumors, then made a 12-foot jumper, assisted on a Hayward bucket and blocked Ridnour’s floater to give Utah a 92-80 lead with 4:31 to play.
The Wolves fought back with two 3-pointers by Ridnour and another from Love. Pekovic made four free throws on back-to-back possessions and Ridnour made a rebound basket with 11 seconds remaining to pull to 98-97.
Hayward made 1 of 2 from the line with 10.3 seconds to go. Millsap forced Ridnour to shoot a contested 3-point attempt as time ran down but Pekovic grabbed the air ball and banked it in with 0.7 on the clock.
After a timeout advanced the ball downcourt, Jamaal Tinsley alley-ooped the long inbounds pass to Millsap, whose wide-open layup rimmed out at the buzzer to force overtime.
”It was a great screen, a great pass. Everything was executed well. I just tricked off the layup,” Millsap said.
On Feb. 22, the Wolves came back from an 18-point deficit against the Jazz and rallied to win at the buzzer on Ridnour’s floater, 100-98.
Minnesota almost did it again but it couldn’t overcome the Jazz’s 56 points in the paint and their 55-47 rebounding advantage, highlighted by Derrick Favors’ career-high 16 boards in 23 minutes of play.
”Twice, we had chances with a two-point lead to get the ball and we gave up offensive rebounds both times. That was the story all night long,” Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said.
Love, who was averaging a league-best 32 points in March, shot 9 for 23 and had just two points in overtime amidst Millsap’s heroics. The Wolves, who played their second game of a season-high seven-game road trip, now lead the Jazz by one-half game as they both chase the eighth playoff spot.
Hayward missed the late free throw and allowed Pekovic to get the game-tying rebound basket but redeemed himself in overtime for the Jazz, who won their fourth straight at home.
”He didn’t hang his head. He continued to fight … and made some big plays for us down the stretch,” Utah coach Ty Corbin said.
But the biggest cheers and accolades belonged to the hustling Millsap.
”In that overtime performance – getting his hands on balls, making the big shot – he just showed who he is. He’s a tough competitor,” Corbin said.
Notes: Love jammed his thumb in the second quarter and played with a taped left hand the rest of the game. … Utah GM Kevin O’Connor said before the game that he received lots of calls but ”wouldn’t make a deal that just improved us for 20 games and not for the long term.” … Michael Beasley, who was inactive for the game, was the subject of many trade rumors but sat down with coach Rick Adelman who said, ”We told him we need him to play both ends of the court. He is an offensive player, an extremely gifted offensive player. But if that’s not going well for him, we still need him engaged in OT.”