Utah Moves Into Final West Playoff Spot; Kobe Bryant & Shaq Are Friends Again

By: 04.02.13
Al Jefferson

Al Jefferson (photo. Bethany Gilbert)

Two weeks ago, we pronounced Utah dead, a casualty of a terrible stretch of scheduling and the expected rise of the Lakers. Now? They’ve won six games in a row, and have a half game lead on L.A. for the West’s last playoff spot after taking care of business against Portland last night, 112-102. Al Jefferson (24 points, 10 boards) worked the Blazers over all night long from the box, turning Meyers Leonard into a cone in a practice drill. Jump hooks. Push shots. Pump fakes. Big Al reached underneath his bed and pulled out all the one-on-one moves he’s had stashed away in storage. Add in 18 from Derrick Favors off the pine, and a weirdly great night from Mo Williams (20 points, nine assists) and this one was never in doubt … Damian Lillard set the rookie three-point record last night after making triple No. 167 this year. That prompted the Jazz’s broadcasters to note Randy Foye also has a three-point record this year: the most makes in team history. The previous mark was 129 by Mehmet Okur. Foye already has 162 and counting. That was surprising, in more ways than one … Jamaal Tinsley threw Jeremy Evans a lob in the fourth quarter that nearly skimmed Karl Malone‘s jersey in the rafters. On a mini fast break, he lofted it into the air before Evans had even reached the three-point line. Once they showed the replay, Utah’s broadcaster Matt Harpring sounded like a little kid on Christmas morning … Greg Monroe had 24 points, and in his return to Toronto, Jose Calderon put in 19 points and nine dimes, but it was Detroit’s bench that did the heavy lifting in the fourth quarter to push them past the Raptors, 108-98. Jonas Jerebko had 15 points and six boards, and caught a nasty put-back dunk after a missed Calderon three that basically iced the win with 33.8 seconds left. But Rodney Stuckey was even better, going for 13 of his 18 in the second half with almost every one of them being key shots in the fourth. During one key sequence, he banged a three-pointer, then ripped a rebound away from Toronto, and led a fast break that eventually ended in a Jerebko J … Rudy Gay dropped 34 points on 18 shots … In Atlanta’s 102-94 win over the Kyrie-less Cavs (resting after setting YouTube on fire on Sunday night), a good player disguised himself as Devin Harris and led the ATL charge with 25 points and seven dimes … Luke Walton actually tried to pick a fight with Ivan Johnson last night, shoving him down at one point and getting in his face. Someone put them in a ring together, and allow the use of props (Walton’s Jason-like facemask and Ivan’s grill). What are the chances Walton survives that encounter? … And the debate over whether Kentucky’s freshmen will leave or stay for their sophomore seasons got a little less fuzzy yesterday. Archie Goodwin will enter this summer’s NBA Draft, where he’s projected as a mid-first-round pick … Keep reading to hear about the best April Fools’ joke from yesterday…

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