This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
There weren't any elaborate explanations coming from Al Jefferson on Saturday night. In fact, the Utah Jazz big man boiled his big performance against the Phoenix Suns down to a simple sentence.
"I was making shots tonight."
Of course, it may be a little deeper than that, a little more intricate. Jefferson scored a season-high 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Jazz to a 94-81 win over the Suns at EnergySolutions Arena, making shots at will down the stretch when the game got close, and playing his best game of the season as a go-to player in crunch time.
This comes one night after his worst performance of the year, a 1-for-9 debacle against the Denver Nuggets where Kosta Koufos of all people drastically outplayed him on both ends of the floor. Jefferson played with a stomach virus that forced him to miss practice on Thursday. He knocked knees with one of the Denver players in the first quarter of that game as well.
Jefferson didn't use any of that as an excuse. It was obvious, however, that he felt better physically against Phoenix.
"Well he looked a lot better," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "He looked a lot better running down the court. He looked much more crisp in his moves. You could tell the difference, and you could tell that he wanted the basketball."
Jefferson played much better against Marcin Gortat a bigger and more athletic defender than Koufos. He made his jumpers. More importantly, he got to the hoop with his back to the basket. Jefferson shot 12 of 20 from the field and blocked two shots as well. He caught the ball closer to the basket and never really faced the double-teams that he did against the Nuggets.
"This was a big game for us," Corbin said. "It's a game we needed to win. Phoenix kept trying to pressure us and kept trying to speed the game up. We just got into a lull for a while, but fortunately we were able to get the ball inside to Al, and we were able to pull off the win."
Big Al's big game
• Jazz center Al Jefferson scores a season-high 27 points.
• Jefferson shoots 12 of 20 from the field.
• Jefferson grabs 14 rebounds and blocks two shots.