- Michael Wallace, ESPN Staff Writer
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SALT LAKE CITY -- During a relaxed moment with his Utah Jazz teammates after practice, forward Paul Millsap mentioned that one of his career goals is to be the most famous NBA player currently associated with the No. 24 jersey.
Then, a second or two later, Millsap was smacked with a sobering reality.
“Oh yeah, Kobe wears No. 24, too,” Millsap said of the Los Angeles Lakers star guard. “OK. Then, I want to be the second player you think about when you think of the No. 24.”
Wednesday will be at least one night when Millsap won't have to play second fiddle to anyone. Stopping him is certainly among the top priorities for the Miami Heat, who carry a five-game winning streak into the game, as well as a mission to avenge last month's loss to the Jazz into Energy Solutions Arena.
In their previous meeting, Millsap mauled the Heat for a career-high 46 points in a 116-114 overtime victory on Nov. 9 in Miami. That breakout performance from the often-overshadowed Millsap included his making three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Before that game, Millsap made only two 3-pointers in five seasons in the league.
But Millsap, who took over as the Jazz starting power forward after Carlos Boozer's free-agency departure, didn't get an opportunity to relive his greatest NBA performance the past two days as his team prepared to face the Heat.
“We watched a little film on (Miami's) offense, and we didn't watch our offense,” Millsap told ESPN.com after Wednesday's shootaround. “I'm sure they're going to come out with a different game plan for us this time. So we just have to be ready to make adjustments.”
Millsap doesn't expect to provide an encore that will come anywhere close to the thrilling show he put on during what's been called the Miracle in Miami. He shot 19 of 28 from the field, made all three of his 3-pointers and grabbed nine rebounds to spark the Jazz's rally from a 22-point deficit.
He joked Wednesday that his performance in Miami still wasn't enough to make him a go-to option in coach Jerry Sloan's system. But Millsap said he expects more attention from Miami's defense this time.
“Probably so,” Millsap said when asked if he'll be a marked man. “I plan on going into the games more aggressive, and trying to take pressure off (Deron Williams). So we'll see where it takes us.”
As far as making his case for ultimately being the league's most recognizable player in a No. 24 jersey, Millsap said it's a work in progress.
“I'm starting to get a little bit of recognition and respect,” said Millsap, a second-round draft pick out of Louisiana Tech, the same school that produced former Jazz great Karl Malone. “With that, you've got to be consistent. My main thing is trying to stay consistent throughout the whole season. When it's all said and done, I hope it's a memorable season for more than just one game.”