Then the humble, quiet starting power forward who has suddenly emerged as the team's premier offensive option in the paint and on the perimeter beamed. Millsap had never scored 46 points in his entire life. Not in youth ball, not in high school, not in college and definitely not in the pros. Top off the outing with the fact that Millsap sent the game into overtime with a tip-in as time expired in regulation, and it was a night that the small-college player who once had to prove that he even belonged in the NBA will never forget.
This one was special for Millsap. And for an in-transition Jazz team still searching for an identity while embarking upon a challenging four-game, five-day road trip against some of the premier teams in the Eastern Conference, it was a victory that could go a long way.
Two free throws by reserve center Francisco Elson with 0.4 seconds left in OT sealed Utah's (4-3) scene stealer.
"I think it shocked [the Heat] a little bit. Me popping out, there wasn't really a guy in my face," said Millsap, who also set a career-high with 19 field goals and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds. "So, I think I'm going to continue to try to shock people."
Shock people, he did.
But there are those close to Millsap who have long asserted that he has the potential to average 30 points and 10 rebounds a night. In addition, guard Deron Williams said he knows that Millsap can bury long-range baskets, because he has seen him display the skill during practice. And even Jazz coach Jerry Sloan could not help but tip his well-worn hat to Millsap. Sloan said that the forward from Louisiana Tech has worked for everything he has acquired. And in a league where fame and glory often precede and eclipse true devotion, Millsap is the real thing.
"When it gets tough, he doesn't quit working," Sloan said. "That's what he's been since he's been here. That's why he's gotten to be better."
He added: "How many people would have thought three years ago or four years ago he would make three 3-point shots in a row?"
Definitely not Heat (5-3) fans, many of whom emitted audible gasps that grew louder and more desperate each team Millsap set up, reared back and released. As each 3-ball soared and sank, Millsap grew more confident. Lifting his hand higher after each subsequent make, he confidently strolled down a court that featured superstars highlighted by Miami's much-hyped big three of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, who combined to score 76 points.
"It is what I've been waiting for all my life," Millsap said.
He added: "I finally got the opportunity to go out there and showcase my skills to the fullest."
But it is was the Jazz who initially lay down before the allure of the Heat.
For two quarters, Utah appeared intimidated and overwhelmed by Miami's star power. And during another listless first half plagued by another slow start, a Jazz team still trying to figure out who it is appeared as if nothing had been determined through six weeks of preseason and regular-season basketball.
As a Heat team still adjusting to its All Star-heavy roster clicked from the opening tip, taking a 25-9 lead late in the first quarter, the Jazz initially failed to spark. Utah connected on just six of its first 27 field goals and shot a paltry 31 percent (13 of 42) from the field during the first half. Ball movement was minimal, open lanes quickly closed, and the Jazz continued a trend of slow, inefficient beginnings.
"Where was the [heart] to start with?" Sloan said. "You saw how we came out. They pushed us around and we settled for shots."
But a heart-to-heart halftime talk from veteran Utah guard Raja Bell one Millsap described as "touching" was about to wake up the Jazz. And Millsap was just getting started.
Check The Tribune's Jazz Notes blog at sltrib.com/Blogs/jazznotes for exclusive news, interviews, video and analysis.
IN SHORT • The Jazz rally from a 19-point halftime deficit to beat the Miami Heat 116-114 in overtime.
KEY STAT • Forward Paul Millsap sets career highs in points (46) and field goals (19).
KEY MOMENT • Millsap hits three 3-pointers in a 27.2-second span in the final minute of regulation, then sinks a putback as time expires to send the game to overtime.
Millsap's monster game
Min. FGA FT 3-pt. Pts. Reb. Ast Blk Stl
43:27 19-28 5-7 3-3 47 9 1 1 1
Jazz at Magic
P At Amway Center, Orlando, Fla.
Tipoff • 5 p.m.
TV • FSN Utah, ESPN
Radio • 1320 AM, 1600 AM, 98.7 FM
Records • Jazz 4-3, Magic 5-1
Last meeting • Magic, 104-99 (Dec. 21)
About the Jazz • Utah rallied from 19 points down at halftime to defeat Miami 116-114 in overtime on Friday. The win tied for the second largest comeback in franchise history. … Paul Millsap scored a career-high 46 points in the win, the most for a Jazz player since Karl Malone's 46 on April 7, 1998, against Golden State. … Utah put up 42 points during the fourth quarter against the Heat after scoring just 32 during the first half.
About the Magic • Guards Vince Carter (hip) and Jameer Nelson (ankle) are day to day. … Dwight Howard is averaging team highs with 23.2 points and 11.2 rebounds. … Orlando's roster mostly remained unchanged after losing to Boston in '09-'10 Eastern Conference finals.