Jazz nation got a treat on “John Stockton Day” (12/12/12) in the form of Mo Williams draining a buzzer-beating three-pointer to beat Gregg Popovich’s cyborgs. On a night when the Jazz had to play nearly flawless basketball in order to beat the well-oiled machine that is the Spurs, they pulled it off. It was an exciting win, hosted by a packed Energy Solutions Arena that sounded like the playoffs. The fans went into a frenzy as Mo Williams calmly drained a 28-footer for the win, showing that the ESA is still a force to be reckoned with when discussing the top venues in the league.
Jazz fans seem to be treated to a game or two like this every season. Unfortunately, while these moments in Jazz history used to come in the playoffs, we’ve been seeing less magic in the postseason while enjoying some legendary regular season games.
Here are some of the best from the past few seasons:
1) Sundiata Gaines sinks an improbable three-pointer to beat LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Playing in just his fifth NBA game, and still on a 10-day contract, Sundiata Gaines showed that he’s not backing down from anyone. After losing Deron Williams, who aggravated a wrist injury earlier in the fourth quarter, the Jazz turned to Gaines and Ronnie Price to run the backcourt. Together. Yup, a lot of hope was sucked out of the arena as D-Will left the floor and LeBron James almost single-handedly led a 22-4 Cavaliers run to get them back into the game, and give them the lead with just over five seconds remaining. With Boozer also fouled out of this one, the Jazz turned to Ronnie Price-yes, that Ronnie Price-to win the game, when he got stuck behind the three point line, his only option was the guy no one expected to take the final shot. Pandemonium ensues, and Reggie Miller nearly wets his pants with excitement, begging the Jazz to sign Gaines for the rest of the year.
“Those guys are so excited in there, probably more so than at any time I’ve been with them after a win.” -Jerry Sloan
2) Paul Millsap’s “Miracle in Miami.”
In the first year of the collection of “talents” in Miami, the Jazz rolled in at the beginning of the season to start a four game Eastern Conference swing. They were 3-3, and the Heat were 5-2 coming in. If I told you that LeBron James had a triple-double, Dwayne Wade had 39 points and the Heat were up 22 at one point during the game, you’d never think that the Jazz had a chance to pull this one out on the road. But Paul Millsap had a date with destiny. Trailing by 8 with 30 seconds left, Paul Millsap scored 11 points, including a perfect 3-3 on three-pointers and a last second putback to send it to overtime. If you’re a Jazz fan, this game is right up there with Reggie Miller’s 8 points in 9 seconds, or Tracy McGrady’s 13 points in just over 30 seconds. A stunned Miami team left the floor gutted, and went on to struggle over the next several games, leading to almost as much criticism as the Lakers are hearing right now. Who needs super-teams, right?
When asked after the game if Paul Millsap has the green light to shoot three-pointers, Jerry Sloan simply responded, “He does now.” (I miss Jerry)
3) Mo Williams beats the San Antonio Spurs with a buzzer-beating three-pointer.
See above, and enjoy the moment again below:
“We’re on a mission. We want to be good. We don’t know our ceiling yet.”-Paul Millsap
4) Deron Williams challenges Kevin Durant to a shootout, and comes out victorious.
The last time the Jazz finished above the Thunder in the standings, it was in large part because of this late-season victory. This game matched any recent game at The Solution in intensity. The Jazz entered the night tied with three teams, in the Western Conference, and came out sitting alone as the second seed in the Western Conference. For as lethal a scorer as Kevin Durant is, Deron Williams stood toe-to-toe with him the entire night, matching him nearly bucket for bucket on his way to a then-career-high 42 points. The icing on the cake came when Williams sunk a free throw line jumper with just over one second left to seal the overtime victory for the Jazz. (We’ll strategically omit the fact the CJ Miles blatantly fouled Kevin Durant’s last ditch effort-Jazz fans have forgotten that, but I’m sure the Thunder still remember.)
“Deron is always focused. I don’t think there’s a game he’s not focused. He played great tonight.” -Carlos Boozer
5) Delonte West makes his way onto Jazz fans bad side during a triple-overtime Jazz victory over the Mavericks.
The Jazz and Mavericks were not friendly last season. Earlier in the season, Earl Watson had to get into Dirk Nowitzki’s grill after the Big German punked Derrick Favors. This game is probably better known as the game that spawned a Twitter account for Gordon Hayward’s Ear after Delonte West earned himself a technical foul for sticking his finger in it. Al Jefferson spent the game matching Dirk Nowitzki’s ridiculous statline, countering Dirk’s 40 points with 28 of his own to go along with his 26 rebounds. Vince Carter almost stole this one away from the Jazz in regulation, but Paul Millsap emphatically dunked in a Gordon Hayward miss at the end of regulation to get this one to overtime. Devin Harris and Gordon Hayward both played big in this game, with DeMarre Carroll coming up big in the third overtime with some clutch hustle plays. Add that all together, and the Jazz came out with a sweet victory against a pesky nemesis.
“Right now we just got to win every game, no excuse.”-Al Jefferson. This game started a five game winning streak to finish the season.
- Rookie Gordon Hayward wins a standoff with Kobe Bryant at Staples Center-The Jazz finally started to move on from the generation of Jazz players who just couldn’t take care of business against the Lakers, no matter where the game was being played. Gordon scored a then-career-high 22 points, then sealed the deal by stealing the ball from Kobe during his “supposed-to-be-signature” moment. Kobe could do nothing but stare at his hands as the buzzer sounded. The Jazz rolled out of Staples Center with a victory against the Lakers for the first time in nearly five years.
- Carlos Boozer leads the Jazz back from 25 down to beat the Blazers in overtime-Most Jazz fans like to pretend that Carlos Boozer never happened, and he’s doing a decent job of staying invisible in Chicago these days, so that makes it easier. The Jazz stifled the Blazers into shooting 4-27 in the fourth quarter and overtime, and Boozer rebounded and put back a Deron Williams miss at the buzzer to send the game to overtime. Brandon Roy played well, but was undone by four missed free throws late, and the Blazers were never able to recover, giving away a rare game in the Rose Garden.
- After a decade of losing in San Antonio, the Jazz breach the Alamo-The Spurs had been struggling early this season, and had actually already lost to the Jazz at The Solution earlier in the year, but this victory was a long time coming. The last time the Jazz won in San Antonio, it took a 30-point effort from Karl Malone. This game took a solid effort as a team, as Boozer, Williams, and Kirilenko produced well-rounded games to beat the Spurs. The Jazz swept the season series that year, winning all four games against the Spurs, and two in San Antonio.
What games from the last few years stick out to you? Let us know in the comments so we can reminisce about the good stuff, or hit me up on Twitter at @CanadianBraeden