The Downbeat #1005: Scheduling, Playoff Odds, and Important Games Coming Up

From the window... to the wall. - USA TODAY Sports Images

Andy fills in for Clark on the Monday Downbeat, as we start the week by looking at Saturday's win, tonight's game, and the schedule coming up. Will the Jazz make the playoffs?

Since the last Downbeat, the Jazz won over the Nets by a score of 116-107, propelled by Randy Foye's fairly ridiculous performance: 26 points on 8-9 three point shooting. The Jazz won both ends of a back-to-back in an important time of the season.

More impressive to me, though, was the performance of the entire starting lineup. Utah's starting backcourt, which has been fairly criticized this season put up 46 points, as Mo Williams accrued 20 points as well. Al Jefferson showed signs of his revitalization, scoring 20 as well. Those who did not score, assisted. Hayward's 42% three point stroke was off for the night, leaving him only 3-12 with 8 points, and Millsap finished just 2-10. But Hayward got 6 assists, and Millsap finished with 9.

The ball movement on offense is improving, and assists from non-PGs is a good sign that things are flowing more on offense. A 58% shooting night from 3 will lead to some luck-infused high scoring totals (Foye can't go 8-9 every night), but the assists show an operational offense. The Jazz have gone 18-6 in games with 25 or more assists, and have scored an average of 107 points in those games. Move the ball around, and good things happen.

One aspect of the back-to-back that intrigued me was how Ty's played the Kanter injury. Instead of going to Evans, or playing Marvin Williams at PF, he's simply gone to a strictly three-man rotation of Jefferson, Millsap, and Favors. Check out the Popcorn Machine Game Flows for both games for an idea of how Ty's structured his rotation to achieve this (for all but 2:36).

This is the right move, and you have to give some credit to Ty, showing an ability to manage a rotation to make this happen. It means sometimes having to play Favors 15 minutes in a row, or Millsap 16, or starting Favors in the 2nd half, but it puts the best players on the floor more often. On a related note, Ty is once again playing Hayward nearly 40 MPG as he approaches the stretch run, something he did last season as well. Again, given Hayward's talents, this is the right move.

So where do the 4 consecutive victories put the Jazz in the West? In 8th, tied with the evil Lakers, who won their game this weekend against Sacramento on a series of terrible calls (Evans hacked on a fast break no call, Kobe jumpshot miss bailed out by late foul call, Cousins three shooting foul not called... though I might be biased). Dallas still lingers, just out a game and a half. Utah and Los Angeles have just 8 games to play, while Dallas has 9. What are the chances to make the playoffs?

Hollinger's playoff odds on ESPN once again favor the Jazz, indicating that they have a 48.5% chance of making the playoffs, while the Lakers have a 45.7% chance, and Dallas has a 7.6% chance.

Let's see how the schedules come out between the two likely teams. The Lakers have this schedule remaining:

Tue, Apr 2

Fri, Apr 5

Sun, Apr 7

Tue, Apr 9

Wed, Apr 10

Fri, Apr 12

Sun, Apr 14

Wed, Apr 17

and Utah's schedule looks like this:

Mon, Apr 1

Wed, Apr 3

Fri, Apr 5

Sun, Apr 7

Tue, Apr 9

Fri, Apr 12

Mon, Apr 15

Wed, Apr 17

The Lakers have 6 games remaining at home, 7 if you count their "away game" against LAC, but have some really difficult teams coming into their building. On the other hand, the Jazz have just 5 home games, but have Minnesota twice, Portland, and New Orleans to compete with. In sum, the Lakers opponents have won an average of 56% of their games, but the Jazz's opponents have won 53%. The Lakers also have to face a back-to-back, whereas the Jazz do not. That may be just enough to cancel out the 1 game home deficit.

As a side note, it's kind of awesome that we're in a dogfight for the 8th seed in the playoffs with the vaunted Lakers. Let's again read the predictions for the Lakers season.

The first game of the rest of the season is tonight, again vs. Portland, who will again not have LaMarcus Aldridge. Having a game against a recent opponent allows you, ideally, to focus on what worked and what did not while making the game plan. So what should the Jazz focus on in tonight's game?

What worked: The Jazz completed 11 cut plays around the basket, going 10-11 on said plays. They also garnered 13 offensive rebounds, leading to a lot of second chance points. On defense, the Jazz guarded the pick and roll significantly better than usual, only allowing the Blazers to go for 0.82 PPP on PnRs, while forcing a turnover 28% of the time.

What didn't work: The spot-up game was off for the Jazz on Friday, going only 4-19 and 1-10 from 3 off spot-up shots. That almost has to improve in tonight's game, if only by luck. The Jazz also were really careless in transition: in 12 transition opportunities, the team only ended up with 10 points, going 4-10 with 2 turnovers. Allowing Lillard 14 free throw attempts and Hickson to go 8-11 is probably not a recipe for success either.

Given the home atmosphere, it's probably reasonable to expect an improvement in transition and from beyond the 3 point line. Should the offense keep the ball moving, a Jazz win via a really productive offense should be the result. We can only hope. And cheer exceedingly loudly.

Poll Time: How do the Jazz do in their remaining 8 games?

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