The Utah Jazz beat the Minnesota Timberwolves last night, on the same night that the Oklahoma City Thunder (nee Seattle Supersonics) lost to the Phoenix Suns. The end result is that there are now 4.0 games between the two teams, and only three games left. And the Jazz have claimed the Northwest Division as their own; their ninth division title in franchise history.
This is the first division title helmed by someone other than Frank Layden or Jerry Sloan. And hopefully for us, the first of many for Quin Snyder. Utah has previously been at the top of the heap in 1984, 1989, 1992, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2007, and 2008. Winning the division was one of my hopes for this Jazz team, and they have done so. I had set out a number of events that needed to happen in order to retain Gordon Hayward, who is hitting free agency by opting out of the last year of his contract.
The first was to win the division, and this happened. The second is to win 50 games, and the team has to win one of their last three in order to do that. The third was for Hayward to make the All-Star team, and he did. And lastly, in order for Utah to prove to Gordon that this is a place for him for not just his future but his present would be to get to the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
That one seems to be hardest to accomplish, but it’s not impossible. Especially not when you look at the previous eight Jazz teams to win the division. Only one of them didn’t get out of the Playoff opener.
N.B. GOLD Cells = Hall of Fame, SILVER = Retired number, BRONZE = should get on some hall of honor type of things. (Actually, I don’t think Frank is in the HOF, which is a shame.)
History tells us that the teams that win the Midwest and/or Northwest division are strong teams. Most of them had top level talent but were shallow. This season we have one All-Star in Hayward, a dominant once in a generation big like Rudy Gobert, but lots of depth.
Hopefully this means at least four wins in the playoffs. We’ll see. But for now we get to relish in the fact that our guys are putting up another division banner up in the Aunt Viv right next to Garth Brooks. (Seriously, Garth Brooks is in the rafters but not Mehmet Okur or Thurl Bailey.) (But that’s a fight for another day.)