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NBA Playoffs 2016: Utah Jazz are going to finish strong, and playoff teams beware -- The Downbeat #1853

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Drink the Kool-Aid!

Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz are impressive at home, but at mess on the road it seems. That's what it's like every year, right? Well, we look at the remaining schedule for the Jazz and it's important to come into these last 26 games with some swagger. The team is coming together on and off the court right now, so I believe in them. We also get to listen to a Frank Layden interview, make fun of the Houston Rockets, see the Jazz getting some hype from National writers (again), and look at a new poll for futility.

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The Utah Jazz are doing things. But doing things I mean they are winning. They've won 9 of their last 12 games. Not bad, right? Since the All-Star break they have dropped games to the Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers. But, on the flip side, they have defeated the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets. The road ahead looks a little tougher, but I am increasingly bullish on this team as this season progresses.

Here are how the games settle if you break them down by how hard they "should" be. (Listed Chronologically by category.)

Expected Wins Expected Losses Games to Split
1 Nets Spurs Celtics
2 Suns Raptors Grizzlies
3 Bucks Warriors Pelicans
4 Timberwolves Cavaliers Hawks
5 Lakers Thunder Wizards
6 Timberwolves Warriors Kings
7 Suns Spurs Bulls
8 Nuggets Rockets
9 Lakers Clippers
10 Mavericks

If the Jazz are going to win and lose the expected games that means the team will be 37 and 35 with 10 more games up in the air. These are the games the team needs to split. Utah can make 42 and 40 if they do so. It's not impossible for them to win even more. Yes the team has to play the Warriors and Spurs x2 still, but on the flip side, they play the Timberwolves, Lakers, Suns x2 still as well. Utah will only play three games in April to end the season against playoff teams. And most of the bad teams will be in tank mode when we play them -- the last two weeks of March and the first two weeks of April.

I'm drinking that Kool-Aid agian. Sure, there are two long road trips the team has to play through still, but I'm keeping the faith!

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Last night's game was pretty fun. Well, mainly fun because the Utah Jazz defeated the Houston Rockets 117-114 in OT (recap here). There were a number of crazy things that happened during it though.

1. James Harden and Dwight Howard continue to miscommunicate:

For more on this, visit #LookIt on SB Nation

2. Josh Smith can do whatever he wants and not get called for shifting his pivot foot (feets?):

3. James Harden is opening up a kinetic vasectomy clinic:

4. Patrick Beverly thinks he is Scottie Pippen (for the record, Gordon Hayward made one of two from the line):

But I think the most random thing had to be something AFTER the game. During media availability the actual journalists (who aren't part of the team) have to share their time and the players with the people who cover the team that are paid by the people who own the team. This is a double standard where someone who gets "media access" to Jazz events will get "team access" to NBA events (I've seen this first hand.) Well, last night Steve Brown, also known as "Uncle Steve," or "Human disaster Steve Brown," was his old self and up to no good.

Reaction GIF - Human Disaster

This is why chemistry matters, these guys are sticking up for one another. And to see Hood evolve is great. I remember him being so quiet and crying during his NBA Draft press conference. (It was a touching, honest moment in this jaded sports / entertainment world that I never ended up uploading that video.) Now he's dictating how these press/player relationships go.

As for Trey, well, his American team mates do like him. (I have no idea how, for example, he and Tibor Pleiss interact.) They've spent summers together and respond to his vocal leadership. Most of those guys grew up playing with a chatter-box point guard who organizes the team. I rarely see Raul Neto pulling in guys to talk to them during the game. Burke, even if he's shooting well or poorly, does default to being a leader in huddles -- which is kind of needed when the only other expressive guys on the team who talk are a cereal junkie, a French exchange student, and this crazy, middle-aged (for sports) Australian guy (with, I assume, a knife.). It's nice to see Trey's teammates pushing media away to defend their brother off the court.

That was kind of random, though.

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Speaking of random . . . Vice has a Sports department now? Vice (formerly Voice Magazine) grew from a Montreal based, community focused publication that is now a huge, New York based media empire that does everything from print to HBO to web, and you may know them for their hard hitting journalism on everything from buying a nuclear bomb on the black market to searching for a Central African dinosaur. Please be aware that they are pretty raw and "edgy" and there are swears and other footage which is not safe for work in some of their videos (like civilians getting butchered in civil wars, etc.) I love these guys, and enjoy all of their specials. (You probably have seen some of their North Korean stuff before, like visiting it, getting refugees out of it, uncovering a covert logging camp in Russia run by them, and of course, the basketball diplomacy one.)

Well, they wrote about the Utah Jazz too.

Jonathan Auping writes:

It doesn't make sense to compare Utah's youthful core to most prospect-laden teams. The difference is that the boom-or-bust period has come and gone in Utah, and the kids are already good. Utah has reliably developed their draft picks into above-average NBA players. Utah's potential for improvement is still there, but this team's floor is nearly as impressive to consider as its ceiling. Hayward is the team's star, and Rudy Gobert its greatest pillar of potential, but no one is personifying the team's emergence more effectively, or more quietly, than Rodney Hood.

Hood is averaging 15 points, three rebounds and nearly three assists in his second season. Perceived as a valuable three-and-D player, if he's perceived at all, Hood has also shown a ball-handling ability that allows him to create shot opportunities for himself and his teammates. With injuries to key players like Alec Burks, Trey Burke, and Dante Exum, Hood has shouldered greater scoring and distributing responsibilities at various points this season. "Similar to Gordon [Hayward], when you're playing without basically three starters, you have to step up," Jazz coach Quin Snyder told me. "And to [Hood's] credit he's been not only willing, but able to do that. I'm not surprised, but I'm pleased."

At 23, Hood has already shown he can do everything that was projected for him out of college. If he begins to really excel at a couple of those things, he'll be a very sought after player -- €”not a star, maybe, but the type of player that really good teams always seem to have in the lineup.

- Jonathan Auping, Vice Sports, 2016

It's a comprehensive look at the Jazz, and most of our players with as accurate info as you can imagine from a Dallas / National writer. It's comforting to see that the cycle is almost now complete, with people high on the Jazz in the preseason who cooled on them when the team was injured, now coming back to the fold as the team strings together a number of nice wins. I will state that Alec Burks is returning this season, so don't worry Jazzfans.

There's a lot that he talks about, and I agree with him on almost everything. The Shelvin Mack move didn't make waves in the media cycle, but for a team that is just missing a few parts while they tread water before Dante Exum returns, this was a good move that helps the team.

Most impressive to me was Auping's recognition of the differences this team has compared to that of Anthony Davis' New Orleans Pelicans. They have that overt star but appear to be without any support. Utah is the opposite, with talent and youth almost everywhere.

Check it out here!

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One hour of Frank Layden talking? Old guys being cool? Sign me up!

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The Sporting News put out a slideshow (I know, *groan*) that attempts to chronicle the worst seasons for each of the 30 NBA franchises. It's by Matthew VanTryon, and it's a fun little jaunt through NBA History. If you don't want to check it out, and you can right here . . .

. . . I can save you the trouble by showing you the Utah Jazz part.

DB 1853 - Slideshow Utah Jazz 2013 2014 Worst Season

First of all, yes, the Jazz won 25 games that year. So if five games were taken from the record it really would be the absolutely worst Jazz season ever. This was the last year of Tyrone Corbin's head coach career, and the one which resulted in the Jazz drafting Top 5 pick Aaron Gordon Dante Exum. So if the ends justify the means then going through that awful season was worth it to be Corbinless and Danteful. That team had Rudy Gobert on it, but he played barely 400 minutes (about as much as Brandon Rush did). Not surprising at all, the Jazz DRTG was 29th in the league, giving up 111.3 points per 100.0 possessions. It was a truly brutal season that also fractured the Jazz fans online. A bunch of them shamed themselves nightly.

But was that the worst season in Jazz history?

1974-1975: The first season, back in New Orleans, had the Jazz win only 23 games, and in that season they had a Lakers-like three different head coaches over a single season. Their saving grace was their league fastest past (109.4 possessions per game) and a 22 / 5 / 6 / 2 season from All-Star guard Pete Maravich.

1979-1980: Five years later in the Tom Nissalke era they managed only 24 wins. But that team also had Adrian Dantley, Pete Maravich, Ron Boone, and Bernard King. So, first of all, how bad could it be to watch as a fan with those guys on the team. And second, how did they win only 24 games with -- probably -- the best Jazz wing rotation of all-time?

1981-1982: This was the half season of Nissalke before Frank Layden took over. The Jazz would finally make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history two season after this, but it still took two seasons to get there. Some of the parts already where in place with Adrian Dantley going for over 30.0 ppg once again, Rickey Green averaging close to a double-double, and reigning 1981 Rookie of the Year guard Darrell Griffith doing things from deep. This was a fun team to watch -- especially because they scored 110.9 ppg. They lost a lot though.

2004-2005: A lot of the teams on this list weren't supposed to be playoff teams, and thus, expectations were low. Fan enjoyment was also high because of the star players and exciting brand of basketball. The 2004-2005 team? Larry H. Miller opened the bank vault to pay guys in free agency. And the core group of Carlos Arroyo, Gordan Giricek, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, with Matt Harpring, Raja Bell, Raul Lopez, Howard Eisley, and two Top 16 picks (Kris Humphries and Kirk Snyder) was built to make the playoffs. Instead, injuries killed this team, and they won only 26 games. Jazz fans did not see an exciting product on the court, you can't say that when injuries mean Jerry Sloan is forced to start Aleksandar Radojevic and Ben Handlogten instead of AK-47 and Booz. The silver lining is that the awful season allowed for a draft pick that then GM Kevin O'Connor paired with trash to move up and snag Deron Williams. Two seasons later the Jazz were back in the Western Conference Finals.

2013-2014: This is the season described in the Sporting News piece. And the one we all lived though. It was horrible. It wasn't fun. The team didn't win. And veteran mercenaries were getting playing time over now-brittle, injury prone young players.

So which team really was the worst to watch, in your opinion?