This 2021-2022 season has been an interesting one for the Utah Jazz. After a pretty pathetic collapse in the playoffs last season, the Jazz ran it back again with most of the same squad, changing a few minor role positions. Throughout this year, they have seemingly placed less emphasis on regular season games, hoping to get everyone healthy before the start of the playoffs. We are now just two weeks away from the start of the NBA Playoffs, and the Jazz are neither healthy, nor playing good regular season basketball.
The Jazz are in a bit of a tailspin at one of the most important stretches of the season. They have lost give straight games, and have dropped to 6th place in the Western Conference. They are coming off an embarrassing performance against the Clippers the other night, where they blew (yet another) a 25-point lead and collapsed in the second half. This was their 14th double-digit blown lead resulting in a loss this season.
Jazz blown double-digit leads resulting in losses this season.— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) March 30, 2022
Back-to-back games now in Dallas and LA.
Not only are the Jazz playing bad basketball, they are also dealing with injuries to key players. Bojan Bogdanovic and Danuel House have been out for the last couple weeks. Both are returning to action tonight against the Lakers, but it will probably take them some time to get re-adjusted before the playoffs. Trent Forrest was knocked out of Tuesday’s game with a concussion after getting smacked by a Rudy Gobert flailing arm, and will probably miss some time. Hassan Whiteside has been dealing with some foot issues and his return is indefinite. Probably most importantly, Donovan Mitchell is hobbling on one leg again, and doesn’t appear to be anywhere near 100%. After the drama with the medical team last year in the playoffs, you would assume that Mitchell is just going to keep playing and powering through, which is admirable, but sometimes hard to watch.
To add on top of poor play and bad injury luck, the Jazz just don’t have great vibes right now. There is some painfully obvious tension between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, which honestly has been a thing all year long. But when the Jazz start losing frustrating games, it gets much worse. Rudy making passive-aggressive comments to the media, Donovan “liking” tweets about Rudy saying those things. Just bad vibes.
So, with alllll of that being said, is there any hope left for this postseason from the Utah Jazz? I have been pretty optimistic about this team all year long. I’ve tried to focus on the potential of the current players, knowing that if they play at their highest levels, a championship run is not too farfetched of an idea. But watching these last few games of Jazz basketball, and this entire year in general honestly, it’s tough to say that the Jazz have shown us any solid signs that they can be a championship team this year. Not winning close games, defense dwindling, not being able to put good teams away, etc. Is there hope? Yes, there’s always hope. It might not be a lot of hope, or the amount of hope that we all had entering last year’s playoffs, but there’s still hope. A big reason why a potential Western Conference Finals run isn’t out of the question is the field. Just like last year, the playoffs are wide open. If the playoffs were to start right now, the Jazz would take on the Mavericks in the first round. They would play the winner of Memphis and the 7 seed (from the play-in) in the second round. Neither of those matchups really present some insurmountable opponent. The Jazz would avoid the Suns, who are clearly the best team in the NBA, clear until the Western Conference Finals. And even then, the Suns, who are a really good team, aren’t some juggernaut like we’ve seen in years past with the Warriors, Spurs, Lakers, etc that went on to win championships. The field is still wide open. Although the Jazz haven’t really shown us signs of a team that can make a run, you never know when they might flip the switch and surprise everyone. Going into the playoffs, my hopes are very low. Honestly, at this point if they make it out of the first round, I’ll be a little surpised. And if they do that, they might as well win in the second and make it to the WCF. Guess we’ll see in a few weeks. It’s now or never.