If you read Yucca's game recap this morning and came away feeling less than encouraged, you'll find no solace here. Yucca said that he was fighting the urge to write an obituary. All I can think of is this:
A few weeks ago, we talked about the worst losses of the season. If it comes to it, I don't think a loss tonight would be it. The reason? This:
5. Chauncey Billups on Mo Williams
This wasn’t the funniest or the most egregious flop of the year, but it was surely the most successful. With his Clippers trailing by two with just over a minute remaining in Utah, Billups lined up a three-pointer from the right angle. The shot was off, but Williams flew by him to contest it, prompting Billups to allow himself to fall to the court as if he were hit. Billups made two of the three free throws awarded to him and L.A. went on to steal a 105-104 victory, leaving Jazz fans rightfully incensed at the blown call. This play led some to wonder whether the playoffs would see a greater number of flops, as the reward (swinging a road game) far outweighed the risk (a warning that, at worst, carries a nominal fine).
From this article at The Point Forward blog, Ben Golliver breaks down the worst flops of the year. At this critical moment in the season this loss hurts the worst because the team didn't earn it. The fought and played their hearts out against a better team and were awarded with a soul crushing defeat. Its life in a microcosm. Hard work doesn't always lead to success.
Here is a great breakdown of how the playoff race could shake out today. The Grizzlies are tied with the Clippers, but a win tonight and a Clippers loss would earn them homecourt advantage over the Clippers, even though they would not take the 4th seed because of the ridiculous Division Champ rule... Think the Jazz / Rockets series' in '07 and '08. The Grizzlies have something to play for tonight.
Fortunately, so do the Rockets. If they lose tonight and the Warriors beat the Blazers in Portland, they drop all the way down to the 8th seed. They don't want that. In the 4 games played agains the Spurs, they lost 3, but the total margin of loss was only 36. Take away the early December blowout and it drops to 14, including an OT game. On the other hand, their series against the Thunder has been ugly. In 3 games, the Rockets lost all but one of them and the combined margin of loss was 54 points. A 24 point loss and a 30 point drubbing. The Rockets have a lot to play for tonight.
Now that we've gone through all of this, I just can't shake the feeling that its in the cards. The story is too well laid out for the Lakers' path to the playoffs. The team that struggles through a season of turmoil is lifted onto the back of the Atlas-like Kobe Bryant who plays gallantly for an entire season, then tragically suffers a season and possibly career ending injury. The brave players then band together, rallied by the loss of their courageous leader, and not only charge into the playoffs, but manage to exceed expectations and take the seventh seed. Sometimes life is more farfetched than a movie.
The guys over at Utah Sports Net are hosting a Jazz Fan Meet Up tonight at the Iggy's Downtown. I would be remiss if I didn't plug it here. If you haven't had the chance to meet some of the most ardent Jazz fans out there, I highly suggest you go. They are always great people, the atmosphere is good, the food is alright, and the beer goes down smooth. Plus, you never know who you might meet there. I met a woman that I'm madly in love with at the one last April. In addition, if you stick around for the Rockets / Lakers game you will have a good support group to weep with, should the outcome be undesirable.
So you've heard my take, as well as Yucca's. What's your take on tonight? How do things play out? Are you a pessimist? Optimist?