The six-year veteran spent the 2011 NBA lockout improving everything from his ball-handling skills and long-range jump shot to his ability to beat defenders off the dribble. Millsap employed all those weapons and more Sunday, carrying Utah like it was the 2010-11 season all over again.
"I just wanted to be aggressive, whether that's driving to the rim, drawing a defender or kicking the ball to an open guy," said Millsap, who ranks second on the Jazz in average points (16), rebounds (9) and minutes (31.7). "I wanted to keep their big guys moving and keep them off their heels. That was my main focus."
The Warrior's also been sucking up loose balls. He recorded nine rebounds and five steals against the Lakers, and is averaging a surreal 4.4 takeaways during his past five games. Entering Monday, Millsap ranked fifth in the NBA in average steals (1.91), just .02 behind fourth-place LeBron James.
"We're helping each other and being active," Millsap said. "We're getting our hands on a lot of deflections. We are a confident team, and we have confidence on the defensive end. We feel like we can stop anybody."
Utah small forward C.J. Miles spent his 25th birthday sick and hazy and acknowledged on Twitter he was dealing with double vision.
But Miles toughed it out. He made his second consecutive start with Raja Bell out of the lineup, and helped the Jazz hold Los Angeles guard Kobe Bryant to a horrific 3-of-20 shooting performance from the field.
"C.J. did a tremendous job on him, and [we] allowed all of the other guys that guarded him to frustrate him a bit," Hayward said.
Bryant's out-of-character outing was even worse than it initially appeared. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bryant has taken at least 20 shots 571 times during his 16-year career. His field-goal percentage Sunday 15 was his worst on at least 20 attempts since he entered the NBA.