The year is 2012, the Utah Jazz are fighting for their playoff lives with the defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks in town for a late-season battle.
Big Al Jefferson had been to the postseason just once in his career, so he was starving to return to the playoffs and get another taste of the second season that had eluded him for seven years. The Mavs were a fitting potential foil, a playoff-tested, championship-caliber bunch that had little in common with the young and hungry Jazz. But Dallas was fighting too. They entered the game three games ahead of Utah for the seventh seed, but far from secure in their standing with five games to play.
Each team poured their all into the game, and the intensity was turned up even before Dallas’ Delonte West punked young Jazz star Gordon Hayward. That move only increased Utah’s desire. By the end of the third quarter, the Jazz had a near double-digit lead and Big Al had already compiled a gaudy double-double with 14 points and 16 rebounds, but Dallas fought back in the fourth, took the lead and nearly stole the game before a follow by Paul Milsap sent it to overtime.
No. 25 nearly finished the job with a tip-in at the buzzer in the first overtime, but it fell off the rim and despite his two buckets and three rebounds in OT number two, the teams seemed destined to fight forever, forcing a third overtime. Al made two more buckets in the third OT and stepped up on defense as well with a big block. When he made his second basket of the short frame, it put the Jazz up 120-115 and despite two threes by West, they held on to win 123-121.
Big Al finished with 28 points and 26 rebounds, matching a career-high he would never eclipse. The Jazz win kicked off a five-game winning streak to conclude the season, clinching them a playoff spot for just the second time in Al’s career. Check out the highlights below.