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Jazz and Mavericks welcome us to the spring of playoffs

By Matt Moore | NBA writer
You hear that?

That's the sound of spring. It's the sound of playoff-intensity basketball as the games really start to matter. It's the sound of Mavs-Jazz in a triple-overtime thriller Monday night. No nationally televised game. No stars that are concerned with "branding" or markets. Just a desperate Jazz team incomplete but fiery, clawing and scrapping to try and make their way to the postseason, versus a Mavericks team that absolutely cannot afford to lose any ground in a playoff race that suddenly finds them just a game and a half above the 8th seed.

It was an all-out slobberknocker.

The Jazz charged back from behind late and finished the job with the most exciting dunk possible, the putback game-saving dunk from Paul Millsap.

That is not an easy basket. Millsa continues to amaze as a focal point who can do it all for the Jazz. Contenders are missing out by not making a big trade offer to Utah for Mansapp, if they haven't already.

But the Mavericks would not go quietly. In overtime, down three, the Mavericks went to an unlikely target. A seven-foot German guy got the final look. Weird, right? Watch what Dirk Nowitzki does here in anticipating the desperation closeout by Gordon Hayward and how he resets behind the three-point line. Also check out his celebration.

Not bad there, big guy.

So double-overtime, which ended with a very-near halfcourt gamewinner from Millsap. A grind-it-out series of big blows and crafty plays at both end. Al Jefferson got in the act, nailing this one to tie it back up.

That's such a tough, tough shot. It needs to be noted that Jefferson is the rare big man in the NBA who you can go to late in games in the post and watch him deliver. That's an extremely rare asset. You see so many teams yanking their bigs off the floor late for fear of being sent to the line or making a bad shot. Jefferson on the other hand manages to consistently deliver. He doesn't draw fouls at a good enough rate or play consistently enough to be a star, but he straight up delivers in the post for his team in key situations.

Finally, in triple-overtime, in a game both teams desperately needed and gave everything for, it came down to that most classic of shots. The pump-fake-up-and-under push-shot. That old chestnut.

Check out how high Jefferson went on the pump-fake which is what got Nowitzki in the air? The adjustment in traffic to avoid hanging the ball out for the defender coming down on recovery is nice, too.

The Jazz remain in 10th in the Western Conference, a half-game behind the Suns for the 8th spot in the playoffs, but Phoenix has the tiebreaker. The Jazz do own a tiebreaker over Houston, who fell to ninth after a loss to the Nuggets in Houston Monday. The road gets no easier from here on out. But if you wanted epic basketball and great players on both teams stepping up, Jazz-Mavericks was a nice warmup to what's coming in 12 days.
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