The Utah Jazz are playoff bound. They clinched the spot on Tuesday night by beating the only team still with a chance to chase them down, the Phoenix Suns, 100-88.
”It’s good to make people eat their words,” Utah’s Al Jefferson said of doubters who thought Utah was too young and inexperienced to reach postseason. ”That’s what we did. Now it’s time to go and shock the world.”
Jefferson left the game with 7:30 remaining in the third quarter after suffering a gash over his left eye.
”You should have seen me back there rushing the doctors,” Jefferson said.
He returned with the Suns within five at 85-80 and hit an 18 footer following a baseline dunk. He finished with 18 points, 16 rebounds and a few stitches on the night.
”We contained Al for three quarters and then he started scoring all over the place,” Phoenix center Marcin Gortat said. ”He got hot.”
Wednesday night’s game with San Antonio may be Steve Nash’s final games as a member of the Suns. He will become a free agent. With his advancing age and the fact the Suns have missed the Playoffs two years in a row, he may have to think about moving on.
”Phoenix feels like my team,” he said as he iced down in the locker room. ”It has the feel – and you don’t always get it in professional sports – but it feels like a high school or college team. I spent so many years here and had so much success here. It’s a special place for me, no question.”
Nash finished with 14 points and 11 assists. ”Their bigs gave us a really hard time,” Nash said. ”Without Channing and Grant, it would have been just too much to ask.”
”On the offensive end, it creates a mismatch,” said Paul Millsap, who led Utah with 26 points and 15 rebounds. ”On the defensive end you got me out there roaming, and got two shot-blockers down the middle. We got the best of both worlds.”
”Seven long years, seven long years since I’ve been in the playoffs,” Jefferson said. ”It’s a great opportunity. A lot of people counted us out. It’s a great group of guys and everyone on our team deserves it.”
Utah has 7 of it’s players under 26 years old. This playoffs will be about gaining valuable experience. But with a mix of veterans who’ve been in the playoffs before, the Jazz should know what to expect. They could prove to be a tough match-up for San Antonio who does not have too many young legs on their roster.