01/12/2012 - 14:16
Another Season High For The Show
by Sierra Shafer

Josh Howard gave the Los Angeles Lakers all they could handle on Wednesday night and the Utah Jazz showed they have what it takes to play with the league's elite.

Josh scored 18 points in a season-high 34 minutes off the bench to help the Jazz push the Lakers to the brink. Unfortunately Utah ran out of magic in overtime, allowing LA to walk away with a 90-87 win. The loss was a heartbreaking one for the Jazz who appeared to have Los Angeles on the ropes late in the game, but J-Ho sighted the game as encouraging, not discouraging.

"It was a tough game, but we stuck together, we stuck together," he told KFAN. "We didn't back and I think that's the biggest thing. They're probably the best team in the NBA with Kobe as their leader, but we didn't back down."


Josh's trey with less than a minute remaining, his first made three of the year, propelled the Jazz into overtime (Getty Images).

Utah rallied from a five-point deficit in the final two minutes thanks to a three-pointer by Josh and a signature pair of free throws. The five points in 35 seconds brought the Jazz from a 76-71 deficit to a 76-all tie. The game went to overtime tied at 78.

In that overtime, another trey from No. 8 gave Utah an 85-81 lead as they looked to slam the door on LA.

"It feels good," Josh told KFAN about knocking down his first two treys of the season in crunch time. "I know I have that in my game, but I don't like to use it a lot. Time called for it and I took the shots. And they went down."

But Pau Gasol made a pair of free throws and followed with his only three-pointer of the season, giving the Lakers an 86-85 lead with two minutes to go. Los Angeles outscored Utah 4-2 in the final minutes to closeout the three-point win.

Utah had been 5-0 at EnergySolutions Arena before Wednesday's loss and the defeat also broke a five-game winning streak. But Coach Tyrone Corbin was thrilled with the fight of his players and their attitude during and after the game.

"I was proud of my guys. They did a great job," he said. "It's a loss, though. The guys are playing hard, and I can't do anything but applaud their effort. We're growing and getting better. We had opportunities to win this game tonight and couldn't get over the hump. But the effort's been great, man, and you can deal with the losing if you're playing as hard as we played tonight. We just didn't get a break at the end."

IMPROVEMENT STARTS ON D
Wednesday's game was the second match up between the Jazz and the Lakers this season; Utah suffered a 96-71 loss on Dec. 27. David Smith of the Deseret News commented on the tremendous improvement Utah has made since the last game against the Lakers.

"While they came up short in a heart breaking overtime rematch Wednesday night, the progress Utah made in two weeks is very noticeable."

Coach Tyrone Corbin echoed those sentiments about the team's improvement when talking with the Deseret News after the game.

"We've improved, and I believe in our improvement," the Jazz coach said. "I think the guys did a tremendous job of fighting. The effort was great and the focus was there and we were right in the ballgame. We just didn't finish it, and that's the disheartening thing. But I'm really happy about the way our guys are playing."

One story of the Jazz's recent success has been the play of their defense. Wednesday marked the fifth time in their last six games that Utah has held an opponent to 90 points or fewer. Josh has said repeatedly that the defensive effort comes from the inside out and on Wednesday Utah's bigs limited the Lakers to just nine second chance points on eight offensive rebounds and under 50 percent shooting in the paint.

"We held their offense down and that was great," Josh said. "If our bigs continue doing what they're doing, they'll make the wings jobs a whole lot easier, which they're doing," he told KFAN. "Big Al, Favors and Enes, they don't back down from anybody, no matter what the challenge is. That's a tone we set night in and night out."

However, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant picked up the slack for his team, scoring 40 of LA's 90 points on the evening, another impressive performance from one of the NBA's all-time greats and something Josh is not unfamiliar with.

"I've been watching him play since high school and since I got in the league I've had opportunities to play against him," No. 8 said. "He's a great player. He did what he was supposed to do and that's score points, lead his team to a victory."

CRUNCHTIME CALL
The Jazz relied heavily on Josh on both the offensive and defensive end Wednesday.

He logged a season-high in minutes and didn't sub back out after returning to the game with 9:34 remaining in the fourth, playing the final 14 and a half minutes for Utah with the game on the line.

Center Al Jefferson commended Josh and the rest of the Jazz bench for their solid play.

"Josh Howard is going back to the Josh I knew and loved in Dallas," he told the Deseret News. "I like the way everybody's playing. The bench is playing well — Derrick, Big Turkey (Kanter) and Earl gives us a wonderful lift."

In addition to his 18 points, No. 8 has four assists, two rebounds and a steal.

NEXT UP
The Jazz get a couple of days to regroup before welcoming former Jazzman Deron Williams back to Energy Solutions Arena on Saturday when they host the New Jersey Nets.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game can be seen on ROOT Sports.

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