The Jazz have never been a team that believes in taking games off and tonight they came out playing with hustle and enthusiasm. Aside from resting Paul Millsap, the Jazz started their usual group of players. Al Jefferson, Gordon Hayward and Devin Harris started and played just long enough to keep themselves in game shape and ready for the playoffs. The trio played only in the first quarter and rested on the bench for the remainder of the night.
With playing time to go around, the Jazz’s rising stars were given the chance to showcase their talents in front of the hometown crowd on fan appreciation night. The Jazz’s rookies, in particular, played extremely well. Alec Burks finished the game with a career-high 18 points while Enes Kanter contributed a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Jeremy Evans turned an otherwise meaningless game into his own personal highlight show. The second-year forward wowed the crowd with dunk after high-rising dunk. To go with three blocks and three steals, Evans registered his first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“That’s what I try to do. I come in and bring energy,” said Evans after the game. “[I try] to get the crowd into it. That’s why they come to see these games.”
Playing in just his second game after midseason knee surgery, Josh Howard had a little extra spring in his step and showed Coach Ty Corbin that he’s ready for significant playoff minutes. Howard finished with 12 points, including a surprising put-back slam over the Blazers’ Luke Babbitt.
Former Jazzman, Wesley Matthews, had another nice night against his former team. Matthews scored 14 points including three 3-pointers and missed a would-be game-winning attempt from behind the arc as time expired on the regulation clock.
The Jazz enter the playoffs on a five-game winning streak and will start a new era of playoff basketball in San Antonio this Sunday.