True story: Jazz play Portland tonight.
The importance of tonight's game cannot be overstated. Maybe it means nothing in the standings, playoff picture, etc. But honestly tonight's game is important BECAUSE it means nothing.
Sirius Black once told Harry Potter that the way you judge a person's character is to look at how he treats his inferiors—not how he treats his equals or superiors. Well, the way to judge a coach and front office is by looking at how they approach games that mean nothing, not games that matter.
Tonight we find out if Ty has any of Coach Popovich in him. Tonight we see how far the "Compete in every game" mantra goes.
Admit it: you'll be super amused if Millsap/Al/Hayward/Harris play 40 minutes tonight. You'll likewise be entertained if Kanter plays 4 minutes because he's yanked after missing his only shot, and Jeremy Evans doesn't play at all. #WinEveryGame
Looking ahead to the playoffs: Locke put up several Tweets about the Spurs last night. For all the rumblings about the Jazz matching up well with them, how anything can happen, etc., etc., etc., these should give us some pause:
Top 5 offensive teams in the NBA over the last 10 games - Spurs (118.8) Denver (115.4) Atlanta (114.6) Phoenix (113.2) Utah (113.2)— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) April 26, 2012
Top 5 teams in NBA via efficiency differential last 10 games - Spurs (+16)Hawks (+11) Denver (+8.5) OKC (+8) Bulls (+7) - Jazz #9— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) April 26, 2012
#Spurs Manu Ginobili will finish the year ranked #1 in Locke Offensive Ranking, followed by Harden, Durant, Lebron and Tyson Chandler— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) April 26, 2012
So, over the past ten games (including two in which the Spurs didn't even bring Duncan/Ginobili/Parker), they are the best offensive team and fourth best defensive team in the league. Their differential is obscenely good. Manu may have been the best offensive player in the entire NBA this year. They have gone 23-3 over the past 26 games.
It is very true that anything can happen in the series. But we also should remember we are playing an experienced, championship-winning team that has steamrolled the entire NBA since the All-Star break. They beat the snot out of good teams. They beat the snot out of crummy teams. They win at home. They win on the road. They win with their stars. They win when their stars get DNP-Old.
They won almost as many road games as the Jazz won at home this year.
The Jazz are going up against the best of the best, and it will be really fun to see how well they can do. I snarked about their compete in every game mantra above, but it also means our guys won't roll over and give up—no matter how well the Spurs play in the series. Even if they fall behind 0-3 and face a sweep, they'll play their guts out in that game four.
KOC gave BTS an interview, written up at the SLTrib. I'm not going to go into all of it, because right now I just want to be happy and enjoy where the Jazz are at. But here's my favorite part, talking about building a team:
When you put a team together, you try to have a vision. And maybe what you thought about here was trying to build it through the draft and trying to look a little bit at what Detroit was when they had a lot of good players. Rasheed [Wallace] and Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups. I'm not putting ourselves in that category yet, because we haven't earned it. But what I'm saying is, maybe that's the idea. That we can beat you in a lot of different ways instead of having to go the one or two guys over and over again.
I would have found that quote really irritating early in the season, when the team seemed determined to go to the same two guys over and over again. Thankfully, that game plan has mostly disappeared. I believe the Jazz are successful because they went to a balanced attack, because they started playing according to the strengths of everyone instead of the few. When you don't have all-time talent playing at their peak, you have to find ways to make your team better than its collection of players suggests. The Jazz have figured out how to do that over the past month and a half.
Edit: forget the open poll. This is what I've been desperately waiting for and thought it wasn't done for the Downbeat:
Shandonfan's Bromance Part 2 Video: Can You Feel the Love Tonight