There are only 5 games left in the 2009-2010 regular season. Essentially, with all the randomness of the season schedule, injuries, slumps, hot streaks, suspensions and ref biases -- there are way too many teams too close together this late in the season. A topic that was revisited frequently late last night on twitter was how seed 2 till 5 were all held by teams with the same record. The fight for second is now in the stretch run; and again, there are only 5 games left.
As far as controlling our own destiny, it's hard not to pick a better schedule.
(a break down of each game follows, after the jump)
Tuesday, April 6th: at home vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
This is a big game because the Thunder are making some serious sound waves in the West right now. Thankfully, this game is at home where our Jazz are known to make some sweet music of our own. Some of the Thunder's unbridled youth and energy may be tempered by the fact that they will have flown in from Minnesota and will be playing in their 3rd game in 4 nights. The last game the Jazz would have played was on Friday, vs. the hated Lakers. (A game that's already happened, mind you) Hopefully Andrei Kirilenko will be back in action for this, even thought the Thunder are in the middle of playing a lot of games *and* Kevin Durant plays 39.4 MPG, we'll need as many good defenders as possible to slow him down.
Utah has a few things to prove in this game, none more important than the fact that the Jazz can actually beat the Thunder in a game this season. Utah also needs to pick up and move forward from the thrashing in Los Angeles a few nights ago. Spotting teams 20 points isn't going to make life easier for the Jazz down the road. Oklahoma City follows this game up with a game in Denver (which Denver will most likely win as that will be Oklahoma City's 4th game in 5 nights). With the Nuggets getting a near sure win the next night it's important for Utah to win on Tuesday.
Wednesday, April 7th: on road @ Houston Rockets
Houston, for the first time in a very long time, is not a playoff team this year. Both Houston and Utah will be playing in the second game of a back-to-back set here. Houston will also be playing their 3rd game in 4 nights. Hopefully they will also be resting their best players (with fake injuries) and taking things easy at this part of the season. I just can't tell what's going to happen when this game rolls around. They are in a dogfight with the Memphis Grizzlies for ping pong balls right now (1 game separates them, and Houston plays them the night before our game); but they did just beat the Celtics in Boston the other night.
Utah should still have a better than average shot of winning this game.
Friday, April 9th, on road @ New Orleans Hornets
This will be Utah's 3rd and final game this week. It will also be Utah's 3rd game in 4 nights (though, not a back to back game). The Hornets are also not a playoff team this season, but their parts are good enough on paper to defend their home court this late in the season. I'd like to count this as an easy win, especially with how the Hornets got manhandled by the Nets last night. Of course, Utah isn't good against teams that are in a downswing; in fact, Utah could be the best medicine for a Hornets team that may be looking for reasons to 'get up' and play hard at this point in the season. Out of all of the remaining games, this could be a trap game. (Even beyond the Golden State game)
Chris Paul is healthy, David West is destroying teams, and they have plenty of size inside on defense. It's hard for me to honestly call this an easy game for Utah. It's still a game Utah has to win. Hopefully Deron Williams will continue his domination of Chris Paul - we are going to need it.
Tuesday, April 13th, on road @ Golden State Warriors
Utah Just destroyed this team last time these two teams played. I'm sure Golden State will have more warriors available for battle this time around. Also, it'll be in their own gym. Golden State, with the added motivation of getting blasted recently, will probably still be playing to get Don Nelson that stupid coaching wins record this season. Thankfully the Jazz will have had 3 nights off to re-focus and watch how the West plays out. They should not come out sloppy, knowing that if they put Golden State to bed early -- the game the next night against Phoenix will go that much smooth. Golden State will be playing their 3rd game in 4 nights in this game. Having a long, drawn out game in Oakland will mean the flight back to SLC will be that much longer.
Utah needs this game as a set-up game to Phoenix, on Wednesday. If this game goes to overtime, there's a great chance that Phoenix will be in their hotel beds for that super important last game of the season before the Jazz even touch down in Salt Lake. This is a must win game (if all 5 aren't already), and Utah needs to blow out Golden State to keep their rotation guys fresh for . . .
Wednesday, April 14th, at home vs. Phoenix Suns
This is the last game of the regular season for both teams, and both teams need this win. Utah needs to stay ahead of the 4 other teams looking for home court. Utah needs to win the season series, and not tie with Phoenix. This will be Utah's 2nd game in a back-to-back set. Thankfully, that's what Phoenix will be facing as well, as they would have played Denver the night before. It's also the 3rd game in 4 nights for the Suns - a team powered by a very old (but great) point guard in Steve Nash. There is no point in hyping up this game. The universe knows how important it is.
But this game, our final home game until the playoffs, is a very winnable game -- like all the other ones left for the Jazz to play.