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The Meaning of a Big Win

Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

One of the strangest truths about sports is this: the outcome of an individual game doesn't really matter much.

Take last night's game: a crazy multi-overtime Jazz victory over the Raptors. You could replace either participant with any other team in the NBA, and the outcome is just as plausible.

Spurs beat Bobcats. Warriors beat Heat. Grizzlies beat Bucks. Wizards beat Thunder. And on, and on, and on, and on ...

The Jazz could have just as easily lost last night. They could just as plausibly beat the Celtics in two overtimes on Wednesday. Or lose. Or whatever. Like Schrodinger's cat, all outcomes are not only possible, but, in a metaphorical sense, equally extant until the the game actually takes place.

This is all punctuated by Al Jefferson's crazy three-pointer that sent the game into overtime. It wasn't enough that it was Al who threw it up — though that was absurd enough. But no ... the ball had to hit the rim, then bounce back, then bounce a couple times before finally falling through. A fraction of an inch different, and the Jazz lose.

So what does the win mean?

Is it the big victory that galvanizes the team to a good run? Or just a random win in a long season? Or indicative of a team that can barely defeat a crappy team missing it's best players?

Well yes, maybe, one or all or none of the above.

I'm reminded of Hank Aaron ... he of 755 career home runs and a lifetime .305 batting average. He was once asked what it was like to know that he was going to get one or two hits every single game. He answered that he didn't now that. But he knew if he didn't get them today, he would tomorrow.

I'm also reminded of CJ Miles ... he of the 40-point game. Two games later he shot 1-10. Then 2-12 the game after. In all, he shot 36% in the final twelve games after he went nuts against the Wolves (19.2% on 3PA). And in the twelve preceding games, he shot 39.5% overall and 32.5% from 3.

You could ask CJ a similar question: what is it like to know you're probably going to miss a gajillion shots today? He probably wouldn't answer this way, but it still may be the correct response: I don't know that I will miss that many ... but I know if make a couple I better keep chucking, because I may never have a good shooting day again.

So what did last night's win mean?

Nothing, really. But that's not being facetious ... it would have also meant nothing had they lost.

What actually matters is the context. And that is yet to be determined. A good team plays abominably every now and then. But it's only every now and then. Just like lousy teams have a good game ... but only in between a whole lot of crummy ones.

The Jazz, of course, have the same issues today, both good and bad, that they had before the win. And they would be the same issues had they lost. Nothing really matters about last night's game ... except that it was crazy, a lot of fun, and that we remember it's a lot more enjoyable to cheer a team on to wins than to losses.

But what does it mean? Well, nothing. What matters is what happens in Wednesday's game, and then Friday's ... and on and on and on. Do they consistently do things that help the team win, or do they consistently do things that make the team struggle?

And have 74 more games to determine this.