The Utah Jazz entered Monday's game against the New Jersey Nets in the three-way tie for the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket with the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets, so the stakes are high in nearly every contest for the rest Utah's season. Despite suffering a heart-breaking 137-134 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in a grueling four-overtime game the night before where every starter played at least 49 minutes, the Jazz jumped on the Nets early and secured a 105-84 win. Paul Millsap scored a game-high 24 points on 10-14 shooting and Al Jefferson added 19 more and the Jazz notched 58 points in the paint to overwhelm the Nets' shaky frontcourt. Unfortunately, the Nuggets and Rockets also won, so all three teams are still tangled in a three-way tie for the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket.
If someone were to tell you that Sheldon Williams would be the only Nets starter to shoot over 50 percent from the field, you could probably guess the game was ugly, right? Well, Sheldon Williams (2-2 FGs for four points and six rebounds) was the only Nets starter to shoot over 50 percent from the field. Kris Humphries grabbed 10 rebounds, but couldn't throw the ball in the ocean and finished with two points on 0-6 shooting. Deron Williams (7-21, 17 points, 11 assists) and MarShon Brooks (3-10, 10 points) conspired to miss from what felt like every spot on the floor, while Gerald Green and Jordan Williams raised the Nets' field goal percentage to a paltry 35.8 percent.
A 34-point outburst by Utah in the second quarter helped the Jazz build a 49-32 advantage by halftime, but the margin didn't stay comfortable enough to give the starters any serious rest. D-Will, Brooks and Gerald Green each turned it on the third period to spark a 26-12 run that got the Nets within a basket of tying the game at the open of the fourth quarter, but Millsap and Jefferson dropped in 11 of the Jazz's next 15 points to help put the game away once and for all.
Utah head coach Tyrone Corbin used rookie combo guard Alec Bucks a bit more than usual after playing Gordon Hayward in 57+ minutes against Atlanta, and the first-round pick did not disappoint in his 30 minutes of action. As a born slasher, Burks knifed into the lane and scored 15 points on 5-11 shooting to go with five rebounds and two assists. Millsap and Jefferson still stole the show and kept the Jazz insulated from a potential meltdown.
How'd it all look? The staff over at SB Nation's Nets blog, Nets Daily, relayed some observations from sleep-deprived Jazz beat writers who labored through four overtimes the previous night and had no patience for what the Nets are calling basketball these days:
Jazz beat writers made fun of the Nets' effort, with one saying they were "lackadaisical, unenergetic, frustrated and struggled mightily to score and defend. In other words, the New Jersey Nets looked like they normally do." Another tweeted early that the "Nets look horrible. No way around it. Can't finish. Can't shoot. Can't execute. No energy," even describing Nets beat writers as laughing at the lack of effort with a "'What'd you expect?" shrug."
As mentioned above, the Denver Nuggets knocked off the Chicago Bulls 108-91, and the Houston Rockets edged the Sacramento Kings 113-106 in overtime, so the Jazz are still in a three-way tie for seventh (with various tiebreakers pending), but they did manage to gain half of a game on the idle Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks, who are both 0.5 games up on Utah as of Tuesday morning.
For all of the Monday box scores, check out SI.com's NBA scoreboard.