Utah Jazz Expectations, Luck, and NBA Basketball

Last night the Utah Jazz lost, at home mind you, to a team on paper we "should not have lost to": the Toronto Raptors. Did they play out of their minds? Did the Jazz play well below what we expect them to play like? Were the Raptors lucky? Were the Jazz unlucky? What do you take from a game where you lose in double over-time to a team that played last night? Was it just one of those nights? There are a lot of questions we can ask one another after a loss like that. But the Jazz season is more than one game (win or lose). And the Jazz franchise is bigger than one season (making the playoffs or not).

It is easy to get despondent when you analyze a single loss and try to understand ’just where the Jazz went wrong’. But one game doesn’t expose any great universal truths, there is no long term trend here. We lost to a team that, despite a number of disadvantages, played better than us. Was it luck? Or was it luck that the Jazz season so far has been an all-you-can eat buffet of home games, many of which were against teams a) on the second night of a back-to-back, and b) missing a key rotation guy or two?

If you do, click on to read more . . .

If you look at our season so far you have a lot of things to feel fortunate about. We have three losses at home, and they are losses with the combined margin of 11 points. And out of our three home losses, we’ve played three overtime periods as well. These average out to losing by 3.7 ppg, each in overtime. Those are close games. We’re still a good home team; even if we feasted on a number of teams coming into play in Utah with some disadvantages. (The league isn’t going to take our home wins away)

Even if you are still upset over the loss at home to the Toronto Raptors *and* the Dallas Mavericks; there are maybe four wins we did get where you could say we were the ones benefitting from some luck. Kevin Love, on the second night of a back to back, shot 5/21 against the Jazz, and we beat his Minnesota Timberwolves, when they had no healthy wings. A few nights earlier we played the Los Angeles Clippers without Chris Paul and without Mo Williams – two of their top 6 guys. A few weeks earlier we played against a skeleton crew the Milwaukee Bucks were forced into throwing out there on the court, as they were down like three or four guys. There are a handful of games you could also nit-pick about. If you look on the Karma Scoreboard we’re still way ahead when it comes to ‘benefitting from good luck vs. being unlucky’.

What about expectations? I don’t think we should expect that we win every game. Furthermore, I doubt that we can win every game we’re "supposed to win" based on ‘on paper’ prognostication. It hurts to lose to a team we should beat, but we’ve beaten a number of teams we should have lost to as well. Furthermore, getting back to the "a season isn’t one game; and a franchise isn’t just one season" point – I don’t expect the Jazz to make the playoffs this season. And I don’t think our front office was expecting that either. Sure – you play to win the game; but the smart play to win higher than we ever could before is to, perhaps, focus on seasoning right now. (After all, they *are* called seasons . . . )

We have some of the ingredients to make a great meal. Trying to rush things now is like trying to serve the main course before it’s done cooking. Let different courses simmer still (let Gordon Hayward play through his slump), and let other parts of the meal wait to come together (don’t expect Enes Kanter to reach his peak performance before he at least is old enough to rent a car). Who knows, maybe you’re in the kitchen while your spouse is on his or her way home with some more things you need to fix dinner still (future draft picks, guys we may lure in free agency, trades). We have the start to a great meal. But we’re not a finished product. Especially not 16 games into a season.

So we should be patient. And not cry about not winning every game. We should not try to trade away all our guys after one or ten bad games. And ultimately, if we don’t make the playoffs this year it’s not the end of the world.

Of course, in all the excitement it may be hard to keep track of things like playoff seeding, and lottery ping pong balls. We should always try to win the game, but we shouldn’t go nuts if we don’t. After all, one of the best things that happened to the Jazz is that they didn’t make the playoffs in Deron Williams’ first season; and ended up getting a long time starter in the lottery the next year in Ronnie Brewer (and had the draft pick assets to pick up Dee Brown and Paul Millsap in the second round). Do you feel like the Jazz are lucky this year, or not?

Well do ya, punk SLCDUNK?

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