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The Downbeat - 1 April 2010 - #198 - The No Fools Edition

 1_medium I don't think you'll see any April Fools posts from me today. Mainly I think that the Internet has ruined good April Fools pranks. It has become like a national Internet holiday. Everyone is looking for it. Everything you read today is going to be met with skepticism. I mean, I see an article on CNN today about a Navy ship getting attacked by pirates and my first thought is, "Good one CNN!"

There is some good stuff though like what Google does every year or Think Geek (they're my favorite. I want this). They do AF well, but you know that it's coming. I think a good AF prank is one that you don't see coming and has some ingenuity to it which is why office and home pranks are a lot better. If I think of something clever, I might throw up something later today.

So March is finally done. 17 games over 31 days is a tough month. So to finish 12-5 is a darn fine month. Last season they were 10-5 and then had the 2-6 April.

This April, we have just the 6 games left in the regular season and an even weirder schedule than March in my opinion. They're either playing a back to back game or getting a three-day layoff. The exception to that is next Thursday when they have a day off between games. Let's look at those games:

@Lakers, Sorry, I'm just not feeling it for this game. I think this is one that has been penciled in as a loss for most of the season. LA is in a weird spot because they're not playing well recently but deep down everyone knows they'll turn things on. I hope I'm wrong on that, but I think that's the way it will be. So I'm mainly just looking for a good showing from the Jazz. Keep it close, and then let the refs bail the Lakers out.

OKC, This will be huge. They're on a tear right now and really are naïve enough to win a playoff series. Seriously, what are their expectations going into the playoffs? It's not that they're just happy to be there it's just that they don't have any pressure to advance. Since they could be a first-round matchup, this could give us a good preview. However, if we still don't have AK for this game, and we likely won't, then we might not be able to pass full judgment on the matchup yet.

@Houston, Those pesky Rockets, well, at least the Dream Shake, would love nothing more than to stick it to the Jazz and play the spoiler in the seeding race. They haven't gotten the boost from Kevin Martin that they wanted for a playoff push. This will be a tough game after playing OKC and having to fly out. The Jazz can win this game but they'll have to be on.

@New Orleans, This is a tricky game to gauge. Chris Paul is just getting back. They had been playing decent with him out but finally slowed down a lot. They were eliminated from the playoffs a while ago and aren't playing for much. This is another one that the Jazz should win but could catch the Hornets playing hot.

@Golden State, It's a different venue against the Dubs when you're at the Oracle. The Jazz aren't likely to catch the same breaks as they did last night when the Warriors made only 4 three-pointers. So this one should be closer but the Warriors have no answer on defense and have nobody to rebound right now. This one should be a win.

Phoenix, This should be a huge game. The bad news is that the Jazz will have played a late-night, west coast game the night before. The good news is that Phoenix has a game the night before as well against the Nuggets. So both teams should be on relatively even ground there. This winner of this game could get the two seed while the loser could possible drop to the five. I don't see this being an insignificant game. I would love for the Jazz to have clinched a position the night before, but that's not likely. Nevertheless, the Jazz should have the upper-hand here being at home and having the ESA in near-playoff mode.

So I'm going with a 4-2 prediction to close out the season. The losses will come @LA and drop either one against Houston or New Orleans. Is that enough to get the two seed? Might not be. That would give the Jazz 54 wins though and a 6-game improvement over last season.

Where they were terrible last April was on the defensive end. They got lit up for 109 points a game.

 According to Siler, the Jazz will be honoring LHM by hanging a #9 in the rafters between Stockon and Malone's jerseys. The number won't be retired but it would be weird to see someone wearing it while one is hanging above their head. Hopefully it's the same jersey type as John and Karl. I still like the idea that someone mentioned last year about lowering the official seat count of the ESA by one.

 Last night's win gives the Jazz the big 5-0 for the season. My prediction to start the season put them at 52 wins. They should surpass that. It's pretty remarkable that since Sloan has taken over for the Jazz that he's averaged 51.5 wins a season (1999 projected to 61 wins). 50 wins has become the norm for Jazz fans and something that's taken for granted. Those 51 wins a season of course includes the three seasons of missing the playoffs with only the one losing season. While we all want something more than those 50, 60 wins, it's important to remember how fortunate we are to have a consistently good team.

  And finally, holy crap it's April. Where has the season gone? What has been your regular season highlight so far? Is it one game? Is it a player? A stretch of games? What?

Mine was the pick by Deron on Joey Graham after Graham had gotten called for a flagrant on Ronnie B.  That's just a side of the Jazz that we hadn't seen from them.  First of all it showed that the players had each others' backs.  It was a toughness/nastiness that we hadn't seen before.  In fact, we haven't seen this around the league for a long time.  There's nothing like on-court justice. 

Above all, it showed that we might finally be seeing a team instead of everyone getting their own.  It also signaled to me that we might be seeing a different team coming down the stretch.