Milt has found a home

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

Magical Milt, Captain Crunch, the closer.

Nobody was giving those sparkling nicknames to point guard Milt Palacio during two mostly forgettable seasons with the Raptors. In fact, Palacio didn't even have a common nickname in Toronto from 2003-05.

But here in Utah with the Jazz, Palacio is winning over fans -- not to mention earning a new positive nickname from the broadcasters every other day -- with his recent solid play. The third point guard with the Jazz, Palacio has become coach Jerry Sloan's go-to guy in the fourth quarter and the journeyman has responded by playing some of the best basketball of his career.

"I just think having a coach like Coach Sloan (has helped)," Palacio said of the longest-serving coach in the NBA. "The background he's come with and being a Hall of Famer, he coaches out there and it's a system. It's either his way or the highway. It's not like you can deviate from it and one game he might do this and the next game do that, it's nothing like that. You know what you're going to do every day.

"It will be the same exact thing, we're not going to change it up, we're not going to throw any gimmicks, we're not going to switch it up. I think that's the biggest thing, me just getting comfortable with him."

Palacio's numbers are strikingly similar to his statistics from his final season in Toronto last season, but the court time in crunch time is new for a guy who played behind Rafer Alston last season.

Palacio has helped the Jazz win seven of its previous 10 games entering last night's game against the Raptors, putting the team in playoff contention at 19-19.

"(Palacio) has given us a tremendous lift," said Sloan, who has used Palacio ahead of starter Keith McLeod and prized rookie Deron Williams in fourth quarters. "He has knowledge, he's been around, he knows the game and he has a good feel for what you're trying to do every time."

BRIEFLY

With his 31-point performance in 23 minutes against the New York Knicks Sunday, Raptors swingman Jalen Rose became just the third player in the past 10 years to score more than 25 points in a game in less than 25 minutes. The others are Ben Gordon and Arvydas Sabonis.


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