PHOENIX — Paul Millsap was battered, bruised, elbowed, cut and stitched up. But on a night where he deserved hazard pay on top of his hefty salary, the Utah Jazz power forward managed to put together quite the line.
Millsap's totals: 19 points, 10 rebounds, five steals, three stitches and — even better than a partridge in a pear tree — a much-needed road victory in Phoenix.
With a smile, the seventh-year veteran shared a different line he couldn't help but track Friday night — Phoenix players' body parts that did damage to his body during the Jazz's hard-fought 87-80 win over the Suns.
"Two elbows, a finger a knee," Millsap said.
To be fair, even though he ended up on the floor in pain, required a trip to the training room to bind a wound, grasped his neck in agony and suffered various painful moments, Millsap hit the Suns where it hurt most.
In the standings.
The Jazz — sparked by Millsap's outing, birthday boy Al Jefferson's 21 points and big nights from Randy Foye, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Alec Burks — evened their record at 17-17 with their second consecutive win.
"He was just determined to play and play hard, and as a result he had a great game," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said of Millsap, who also had three assists. "I thought he was key to the game for us — his energy, his energy on the defensive end, getting his hands on a lot of balls."
Millsap left the game to get his ear stitched up just three minutes in after getting smacked in the right ear during a collision with Suns forward P.J. Tucker.
The Jazz had about as tough of a first quarter, quickly falling behind by 10 points on a night Phoenix hit 16 of its first 20 shots.
"I didn't like the first quarter," Corbin said.
Millsap's return in the second quarter, however, coincided with a game-changing shift in momentum.
With Mo Williams (thumb surgery) out and the Jazz's offense stagnating, Corbin went to a unique lineup for a boost. An 11-point deficit early in the second quarter turned into a 42-40 Utah lead at halftime, thanks in large part to Phoenix's eight-and-a-half minute scoreless drought and the defensive effort of the group that included Burks as point guard along with Hayward, DeMarre Carroll, Millsap and Favors.
"That's how we've got to play," Millsap said. "We know if we come out and put it all out on the floor, good things are going to happen. We came out in tune and the energy was there. We were able to get a good lead and keep it."
Burks, who took advantage of his new opportunity more than his final line of four points, three assists and two rebounds would lead one to think, said the Jazz kept in mind their slump-starting 99-84 defeat here in December.
"We wanted it. We didn't want to lose," Burks said. "We remember what they did to us the last time here, so we just wanted to play hard."
Corbin wasn't afraid to pull new tricks out of his sleeve, either.
"We know we have to do it by committee. It was good (to) look at it tonight," Corbin said of the lineup with Burks in the playmaker role. "We may have to use it going forward — Mo being out. Earl (Watson) and Jamaal (Tinsley), I thought, did a great job for us after that first quarter also."
Added Burks: "I'll play whatever he need me to play so I can get on the court."
Corbin credited the Jazz for being more "aggressive" after the first quarter, leading to their first win in Phoenix in nearly three calendar years. That victory happened on March 4, 2010, with players like Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko on the roster and a Hall of Fame coach on the sideline.
"It's a new year," the Jazz coach reminded reporters before the game when told of that dry spell. "It's 2013. We're starting all over. Happy New Year!"
After the game, he smiled and said, "It feels great."
Despite what his body went through, Millsap felt the same way.
"This is what I do it for. It's fun out there," Millsap said. "It's not fun to get the stitches, but it's all part of it."
He'll happily take the grimaces and groans if it comes with wins.
"I was having fun. Our team was having fun," Millsap said. "We were doing everything we was supposed to do. It started on the defensive end. When we're getting out running, having fun, we're going to beat any team in this league."
According to Big Al, the same goes for the Jazz when Millsap plays like he did Friday.
"I have led many games in scoring and we have lost a few, but when Paul is leading it and playing well the way he played we don't lose many," Jefferson said. "It's great to see him play well like that."
The Jazz traveled to Denver after Friday's game for a game tonight against the Nuggets.
"We can't wait to get out there (tonight)," Millsap said, "especially after (Friday) and after the other night (Wednesday's win vs. Minnesota). It's fun."
NOTES: Utah won the ugly, low-scoring second quarter 17-9. ... The Suns (12-22) only shot 32.7 percent (18 for 55) after hitting 16 of their first 20 shots. The Jazz hadn't won consecutive games since their four-game winning streak from Dec. 5-12. Utah snapped a five-game losing streak in Phoenix while improving to 7-13 away from home this season. The Jazz scored 60 of their 87 points inside the paint.
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