At this point, San Antonio has to be considered our arch enemy, right? We can't beat those guys. We have won in Los Angeles the last couple of years and a rivalry with Oklahoma City is just getting started. But San Antonio dominates us. It is sad that we get them two games in a row during an important playoff push and it sucks that they could leave Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan in San Antonio and still feel like a threat to beat us tomorrow night in SLC (reports are that Ginobili and possibly Tim Duncan won't even make the trip for tonight's game).
When one of your starters plays their worst game of their career, you will have a hard time beating very good teams. Paul Millsap had his worst game as a starter. Two points, 3 rebounds on 1-8 shooting. The only other time Millsap scored so few points as a starter, he also managed 8 rebounds and 3 assists and only went 0-3 from the field. The positive about last night is that Millsap was struggling and so Tyrone adapted his coaching to play Paul only 21 minutes and gave Derrick Favors 30 minutes. Favors responded with arguably the best performance of the team with 14 and 12 on 7-10 shooting.
Here's a frustrating thing about this season. The Jazz have had some lucky breaks and they still aren't a lock to make the playoffs. We can look back to the string of games the Jazz had early in the season against teams missing their best players. The Jazz have been very lucky in terms of injuries. I am going to make an opinion and say that neither Josh Howard or Raja Bell are the Jazz's most important players. You may disagree, but I just don't think their extended injuries are huge deals. I think that Devin Harris, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, and Al Jefferson have been the Jazz's most important players this season. Among those 5 players injuries, or circumstances, have cost the Jazz 10 total missed games from those 5 players. And on top of that, the Jazz have a winning record in those 10 games that they've been down one of those 5 players. Now compare that to the other teams the Jazz are battling for the playoffs:
Denver- Danilo Gallinari has missed more than 20 games. So has Rudy Fernandez.
Houston- Kevin Martin, Kyle Lowry, and Chase Budinger have missed a combined 40 games due to injury. Kyle Lowry is the Rockets best player and he may be done for the season and has missed 17 games.
Portland- Has imploded and traded away their 2nd best player for a draft pick.
Memphis- Zach Randolph has missed 37 games due to injury.
Dallas- Has been relatively healthy, but has lost Delonte West, an important, versatile player for them, to 20 games.
The Jazz have had really fantastic luck with injuries and they still might miss the playoffs. That's frustrating. And something needs to be addressed this offseason if the Jazz management is serious about pushing for the playoffs. And with all that said, the playoffs are still a possibility this season. Denver is the team to watch.
David Locke can be a bit of a loud mouth whose voice can grate on you a bit. He can belittle fans too harshly sometimes. He desperately needs an editor for his written work. He has a hard time balancing his fandom with his "toeing the company line" persona. But he is also a super duper hard working guy, who tries his best to bring a good product and experience to the Jazz fanbase. No play by play guy, that I know of works harder to interact with fans and discuss important matters.
Locke has been conducting some nice podcasts on the Utah Jazz blog and I highly recommend the podcast that was done with NBA.com's Sekou Smith. If you are like me and have wanted the young guys to get more playing time since last year, you need to hear the podcast. Smith makes some good points about the Jazz and their development of young guys that almost made me appreciate the way the Jazz have groomed, Hayward, Favors, Burks and Kanter. Almost.
One of the stories Sekou Smith tells about the Jazz is how the Hawks justified not drafting Deron Williams by saying how Deron must not be good since he wasn't earning minutes over Keith McLeod and Milt Palacio. Smith, who worked for the Hawks at the time, defended the Jazz by saying how important it is for Jazz rookies to earn their playing time and mentions how the Jazz handled Deron's playing time perfectly, even if it upset him.
That got me thinking. A lot of theories as to why Favors and Burks don't get more playing time have been bandied about, including the front office holding them back, so they won't have to pay them such big extensions when the time comes. I don't buy that.
But I do wonder if the Jazz are trying to purposefully not cater to the young guys, because they don't want to repeat the Deron Williams' fiasco. What part does all of the Deron drama play into how the Jazz treat Derrick and Gordon and Alec? Will the Jazz purposefully not offer maximum contracts and avoid the idea of a "top dog" in order to maintain a sense of control? I don't know. But it will be something to watch for the next few years.