The old man Thabo Sefolosha is the last secret weapon of the odd arsenal of Utah



Photo: Gene Sweeney Jr. (Getty)

The Utah Jazz took a major lead over the Nuggets on Thursday night and then held on for good life during a Denver wave and escaped with a 111-104 win. A victory over the Nuggets is a good victory. a win against the Nuggets in Denver is, today, almost unknown. The Jazz made it by missing Ricky Rubio, Dante Exum and Raul Neto. Royce O 'Neale, an attacker, started as a leader and played 40 minutes. The vile Grayson Allen was his main backup. You get the picture.

There must be some things that are especially good for beating the Nuggets in Denver, especially when you play without your three leaders. The Nug Men have only lost twice at home since the schedule has passed in 2019 and only five times during the season. Even after Thursday's loss, Denver still has the best home record in the NBA, with a 27-5 record. The Nuggets have an absurd 11.7 net score in Denver this season, behind the speed record of the Milwaukee Bucks (12.1) over the NBA. Their last home defeat took place on January 15th, against the Warriors, a team for whom so much is still going so well that it has become unfair. For everyone else, winning in Denver usually means that you have been blessed with unsustainable and irreplaceable success. Thursday night, this success took the form of a Thabo Sefolosha:

Thabo is not enough Ekpe Udoh, this season's version, but it's fun to recognize the recent success of the Jazz, which allowed forgotten veterans to be forgotten to play these small, narrow roles and turn them into more-less heroes . Two seasons ago, the Jazz took out Udoh from a distant darkness and integrated him into his backup center, where, thanks to strong protection and a formidable inner defense, he acted like a little button plus-4 handy: the Jazz could subtract Udoh for a few minutes and, as if on wheels, win this handful of minutes on the dashboard.

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Sefolosha, who is approaching his 35th birthday, is probably not good for much more than 12 or 16 minutes of play in an NBA game, but damn if he does not produce a net score of 8.3 for the Jazz, the second -best mark on the team. When they need him, when he is called, Thabo is ready.

It's fair to say that Utah's defense was (and is) unbelievably tough. The Nuggets have the fourth highest offensive rating in basketball, with 113.1 percentage points; at home, this number rises to 117.4. Thursday night, the Jazz held the Nuggets at a low 102.0, which is low even at Utah's high standards. Rudy Gobert frustrated and crushed the pasty scientist Nikola Jokic in 10 misses of 15 shots, plus five turnovers. Nuggets non-Mason-Plumlee reserves have degenerated 6 out of 26 on the ground. The defense of Utah is excellent, especially if Gobert can stick to his counterpart and not have to do much harm to change ass. The Nuggets are a good test and a good match for them, and the Jazz have now won two straight games in their series of the season, with a final tilt on April 9th. It would be a very good playoff series.

But Thursday night, Thabo really made the difference, at least by a few important figures. The Jazz were outclassed by 10 points over 30 minutes of Gobert; They were surpassed by 14 points over the 36 minutes of Donovan Mitchell. During Thabo's 11 minutes of action, the Jazz beat Denver by 16 points. And it was not just a blurry game in the second quarter: the Jazz got a plus 8 lead in Sefolosha's seven minutes in the first half; and they went even more-8 in his more than four minutes of the fourth quarter. As Hardwood Paroxysm noted, he managed that decisive first half by hitting his three attempts from outside the bow in a two-minute delusional push; At the end of the match, he managed a bad pass from Gary Harris, a defensive rebound and, in the manner of Udoh, he knew where to go at all times and really wanted to get there.

This is the second season of Sefalosha in Utah. Last season, he played just over 20 minutes per game in 38 regular season games, and he had a solid 3.2 total points on a team of 48 wins that performed best when he was at home. ground. The second year of his contract, covering this season, was unsecured, reflecting the relative insecurity of his place on the list. He is not an essential cog in their system, as evidenced by the fact that he has played only 31 times this season. But there are teams where veterans at the end of their career are going to soak up a last inflated contract and die – watching you, wizards – and then there's Utah, where whatever or alchemy, they have the gift of playing meaningful and meaningful roles for guys whose last and best remaining skill is to know the most productive way to stay out of the way. Sefolosha may never have another strong moment in the NBA, but he is gifted not to cum in the air! Often that does not mean anything more sexy than knowing where to put your feet five minutes at a time. Thursday night, that meant launching in turn, and counting them.

Mitchell scored 24 points and made beautiful clutch buckets in the far right. Ingles assumed the role of lead facilitator and had 10 assists in 36 minutes. Kyle Korver scored 22 points in 22 minutes. All of that matters in a huge win on the road in the toughest basketball stadium, and a guy who finishes under-10 did not necessarily play worse than the one who finishes over-16. But spare a nod for the old man Thabo, who snuck into both halves and left the helper each time, which allowed his team to take a much stronger position than the one he inherited. It's work! Most nights, it will come in the form of some smart stunts, hedges and cuts, or bypass some difficult screens or survive a few seconds sweat glued to a center opposite or exposed against a head guard. Thursday night, Thabo had to pour some huge buckets. It was good to be able to remember so vividly his important little niche, to change.


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