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News » Utah Jazz: Millsap in tune

Utah Jazz: Millsap in tune

Utah Jazz: Millsap in tune They pulled out all the stops for the Jazz's home opener Friday, with the full 360-member Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the national anthem, but it was Paul Millsap who proved to be a one-man saving grace in their 111-98 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers

Millsap scored 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, a memorable run that started with an acrobatic three-point play to close the third quarter and ended with Deron Williams barking in his ear after Millsap crossed over Chris Kaman and hit a foul-line jumper with 3:23 left.

"It felt great," said Millsap, who hit 9 of 12 shots, grabbed nine rebounds and outscored the Clippers' bench 23-16 on his own. "We had a great effort from everybody in that second half. I was just feeding off everybody else."

Williams totaled 21 points and nine assists, Kyrylo Fesenko had 10 points making his second career start in place of the injured Mehmet Okur and the Jazz held the Clippers to 38 points in the second half after giving up 60 in the first 24 minutes.

Much as he previously has done against Boston, Orlando and the Clippers, Millsap took over for a stretch, mixing hustle plays and jumpers at one end with steals and blocks at the other.

After dropping Wednesday's opener at Denver, the Jazz were in danger of letting another game slip away in the third quarter. They trailed 80-74 after Marcus Camby and Baron Davis got behind the defense for layups, sandwiched around a Carlos Boozer airball.

Millsap, however, came through with the play of the game with 1.2 seconds left in the quarter, leaping to grab the rebound of Ronnie Brewer's missed jumper along the baseline and pushing in a shot in midair while being fouled by Rasual Butler.

His three-point play sent the Jazz into the fourth quarter trailing 84-83 -- better than the alternative, if nothing else -- and they followed with 10 unanswered points to open the final period even with Williams on the bench.

Millsap was in the middle of everything, hitting a jumper to open the quarter, before faking DeAndre Jordan in the air, driving and earning a trip to the foul line. At the other end, he stripped Craig Smith, leading to a Brewer dunk an a 91-84 lead for the Jazz .

"That's who he is," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "He's come miles and miles and he deserves a lot of credit for what he's been able to do."

After a Clippers timeout, Millsap faked Kaman in the air and leaned in for another two free throws. He tipped in an Andrei Kirilenko miss, curled for a 17-footer from the small forward spot and followed up a Boozer miss for another basket.

That set the stage for two spectacular plays to cap his night. First, Millsap stuffed Davis along the baseline on a layup bid. Then he hit the 13-footer after crossing over the 7-foot Kaman to give the Jazz a 106-92 lead.

"I inspired him on the one. Didn't I Paul?" Williams said of the jumper. "I told him when he caught the ball, I told him to go at him. He was about to run a play and I just told him to break the play and go at him. He has no business in guarding him."

Fesenko, meanwhile, impressed Sloan by stepping in for Okur, who was unable to overcome the mildly sprained left ankle and knee he suffered Wednesday.

Most significantly, Fesenko stayed on the floor even after picking up his third foul 2:40 into the third quarter. He scored in double figures for the second time in his NBA career, on a night the Jazz were down to only 10 players in uniform.

"He's not a finesse player," Sloan said of the 7-foot-1, 300-pound Fesenko. "He's just got to rare up and go right through people. "

Fesenko was asked to do a postgame interview on the arena floor and shared with reporters that Sloan told him, "Good job, young fella" afterward.

"That's enough ... trust me," Fesenko said. "That's the highest thing I get from him. That's enough for me to make my day." Storylines

IN SHORT ? Behind Paul Millsap, the Jazz use a 15-0 second-half run to win their home opener against the Clippers.

KEY MOMENT ? Millsap's three-point play putback sends the Jazz into the fourth quarter trailing just 84-83.

KEY STAT ? The Jazz improve to 35-1 all-time (13 straight) against the Clippers at EnergySolutions Arena. Much improved

Both Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap rebounded from disappointing games in Wednesday's loss to Denver:

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Added: November 2, 2009


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