The Utah Jazz will look to close out the Denver Nuggets and move to the second round of the playoffs. It’s certainly not something that anyone outside of Jazz fans and media could have expected. Even Jazz fans have been surprised by just how well they have done.
With so much turmoil this season, this series has been a welcome sight for an organization that has gone through a lot over the last year.
To begin the season Mike Conley had a horrible start to the year that changed the narrative for the Jazz all the way until Rudy Gobert touched some microphones. But about midway through the season, Mike Conley looked like Mike Conley again, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised with how well he’s played.
Jerry Sloan passed away. Those who grew up watching basketball in the 80s and 90s all know Jerry Sloan and just how great he was. Losing him seemed to put into focus just how much history this franchise has.
Rudy Gobert was the the first player that had a positive test for the coronavirus. It was the event that shut down the NBA and he became “patient zero.” Then everyone found that video of Rudy Gobert touching microphones and everyone found the person to blame for all their personal frustrations with the pandemic that was interrupting our lives. To make things worse, this incident seemed to boil over frustrations between Gobert and Donovan Mitchell that had been there all season. It was now a full on story with the national media with Mitchell (who also tested positive) showing up on Good Morning America talking about the virus and the alleged beef with Gobert. Luckily, time does seem to heal all wounds because with 3-4 months since the incident, Gobert and Mitchell seem to be fine playing with each other. If anything, there seems to be a better connection than before.
Not many paid much attention to the Jazz before the “Gobert game,” but Utah had been struggling with the connection between Mitchell and Gobert on the court all season. Gobert felt he wasn’t getting enough passes (he was right.) Mitchell felt like he needed to be the leader of the team and was trying to score as best he could to win (he was also right). Utah seems to have found the perfect blend in the seeding games, and in this series. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised after seeing how well that connection blossomed.
Bojan Bogdanovic had season-ending surgery. This was the narrative every media member latched onto. The Jazz had no chance without Bojan Bogdanovic, their second leading scorer, right? Even though it is a big loss losing Bogdanovic’s efficient scoring, the Jazz have had others step up in his absence and haven’t lost a step. Royce O’Neale took on the starting role and showed just how effective his defense could be. For as good as Bogdanovic was on offense, his defense was severely lacking at times this season.
Also, the lack of Bogdanovic put the ball in Mitchell and Conley’s hands much more. Turns out that’s a winning combination in the playoffs when there are shortened rotations. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised with how well the Jazz have done minus Bogdanovic.
We could go on and one with all the frustrations of this season and the turmoil behind the scenes, but the thing that we should be most impressed with is the resilience of these players who go out and give their all despite the civil unrest that surrounds them every day. These players care deeply about the treatment their fellow black Americans are dealing with on a daily basis. It seems every week we see stories of black Americans being killed or oppressed because of the color of their skin. The players on this team are hurting because of it and yet still go out and drop multiple 50-point games. That resilience is incredible and so should we really be surprised they can overcome a weak Denver Nuggets defense?
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by anything this Jazz team does, especially if they go all the way. They’ve proved everyone wrong so far.
When: Tuesday, August 25th • 4:30 PM MT
Where: The NBA Bubble, Disney World
TV: TNT, AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone