Utah Jazz Grab Important Northwest Division Win Against Denver Nuggets

Gideon ResnickContributor IIIJanuary 15, 2012

Millsap dominated the post tonight in an impressive win for the Utah Jazz
Millsap dominated the post tonight in an impressive win for the Utah JazzEzra Shaw/Getty Images

Paul Millsap is a phenomenal player. Tonight, he was huge, grabbing 26 points and 12 rebounds in the Utah Jazz's 106-96 win over their divisional rivals, the Denver Nuggets

The Jazz are on a hot streak, having won seven of their last eight games and sneakily attaining one of the best records in the league at 8-4. They are also in an incredibly stacked division, which includes Oklahoma City, Portland and the Mile High City team that went down tonight. It is a very impressive feat for the Jazz to be sitting in the second spot in their division, ahead of teams like Denver and Portland.

Perhaps teams like the Jazz don't get enough attention, because they lack marquee name stars like LeBron James or Dwight Howard. But Millsap, Gordon Hayward and Devin Harris contribute monumentally to the success of this excellent team. Hayward scored 19 tonight, while Harris and Alec Burks dropped 10 each. The team shot over 50 percent from the field and collectively accumulated 27 assists. 

Millsap is underrated, but he is averaging 14.6 points and 8.3 rebounds on the year, establishing himself as a premier power forward. He also dropped 16 points in the fourth quarter to gain control of the game for the Jazz. Utah had a 12-point lead halfway through the final quarter, after Millsap scored 14 consecutive points for the team. Danilo Gallinari, Nene and Arron Afflalo all had big games for the Nuggets, scoring 18, 17 and 16 points, respectively.

It's exciting to watch teams like these go at it, because they still seem to coast under the radar. Although they lack players rife with endorsements, they each have remarkable athletes capable of wreaking havoc in the West and in the playoffs. The Nuggets are now 8-5 and will face the 4-7 Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, while the Jazz fly home to face the surging 6-3 Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. 

The Western Conference is still filled with teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, who are all veterans that have experienced monumental success in the playoffs and gaining titles. Despite the fact that they, surprisingly enough, are still stellar teams with their respective best players having amazing seasons (referencing Mr. Bryant most heavily), it'd be nice to see one of the young teams in the Northwest division making a name for themselves this year. Games like the one tonight between the Jazz and Nuggets illustrate how strong some of the Western Conference teams are, and how thirsty the young blood is for a title.