Two games until a season’s worth of what-if’s, questions, and concerns are answered. Two games until we either witness a playoff run this Jazz roster was destined to achieve, or a collapse of a successful, albeit disappointing era in Utah basketball history.
The Jazz have everything they need to accomplish a deep post-season run. A healthy Mike Conley? Check. Two healthy All-Stars playing at their peak? Check. A decent bench unit with some perimeter defenders? Check.
On an NBA-Playoffs-Hierarchy-of-Needs, all of these would sit pretty close to the base. How is a team supposed to win a championship if their star players can’t perform at the best of their ability? Last season, this deficiency crippled them, and as a result, they famously crumbled to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round. This season, however, none of these should be a limiting factor. Instead, Utah’s largest question mark hovers over a much more fundamental, basic, and necessary set of needs: trust, grit, and the ability to come together in times of distress.
Last week, the Jazz blew two respective twenty-point leads against the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors. These were ugly. Twitter, rightfully in ways, blew up with statistics showing Utah’s inability to hold large leads, images painting distrust between its star players, and comments about their unseriousness as playoff contenders.
But, almost unexpectedly, the Jazz responded. As described in a recent article from The Athletic, they held a players only meeting where the “got to sit together and just be honest with each other.” Rudy Gobert came out and said that the Jazz are “not a s**t team” and that so long as they communicated, they could reach their goals. And against the Memphis Grizzles, after characteristically blowing a double-digit lead and allowing the game go to over-time, the Jazz fought hard and pulled out a win. They showed signs of growth.
Does one win against a depleted Grizzles team outweigh the 15 games in which the Jazz lost after leading by 10 or more? No, probably not. I still think it’s unlikely this team makes it past the second round. Still, this does show that the Jazz are making progress. Just a week ago, I wouldn’t have expected Utah to pull out of that game with a victory. The fan in me feels cautiously optimistic that this team could hold it together for long enough to make some noise in the playoffs. After all, Danuel House has played like the 3 and D player they’ve so desperately needed and Juancho Hernangomez has been a pleasant surprise (for more on that, read Calvin’s article, here). And given the incredible offensive fire power on this roster (number one offensive rating in the league at 116.4, per NBA.com), the Jazz should have the guns to go toe-to-toe with any team in the west.
But for now, we wait. Unlike last year, this post-season comes without any expectations and it opens the door for the Jazz to surprise some people.
I’d love to know how confident you all are on this team. Let me know how far you think they go these playoffs in the poll below:
How far do you think the Jazz go in the playoffs?
This poll is closed
Western Conference Finals