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NBA Playoffs 2016: Utah Jazz are going to make it, but in order to do so they need to start winning games - The Downbeat #1859

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Don't be alarmed. But, well, okay. Be alarmed a little bit.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz are losing games, and really, the players have to get it done when it counts. One of those players who can possibly help the team isn't even playing in games anymore, and we look at why. Experience matters though, and this team is inconsistent because of the unequal levels playing on the floor at the same time. Injuries have been a problem this year, but maybe that has just masked the bigger issues I myself have glossed over? We also check in with the Jazz Bear, the Pink Grandmas, and the best ever to play point guard. It's not all doom and gloom, Jazz fans. But right now it would be wrong to pretend that there wasn't ANY doom and gloom. For what it is worth, I still see us making the playoffs.

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Yesterday was Super Tuesday? Is your team winning? If your team is the Utah Jazz then the answer is no. The Jazz are currently on a three game slide, and as this road trip continues, it's likely that it go push the Jazz down a little farther behind the playoff pack in the Western Conference. The season high is a four game slide (vs OKC, @ OKC, @ SAS, vs NOP), and the team has also had two other three game slides this season (@ CLE, @ MIA, @ ORL; and vs HOU, @ SAS, @ HOU). It's funny how multiple games against the same team has spelt doom for us this year.

The Jazz losing big to the Spurs is fine and normal and accepted. Losing on the road to the #3 team in a conference should be similarly absolved, save for the fact that Utah was in the driver's seat for important parts of that 4th quarter and should have beat the Celtics. The Nets game is the one stuck in our collective craws, losing by two at home to a team with like -8 wins on the season.

And this brings up two related points.

  • When does a "young team" learn how to win games?
  • Does anyone on this team have a Killer Instinct to will a team to victory / execute a team that's still standing?

We had one of the best game managers of all time, and clutch performer, in John Stockton. We've also had Deron Williams who wouldn't accept losing. We've also been so lucky to have seen someone like Karl Malone put the team on his back and have 30 points in three quarters just because he knew the other team couldn't stop him. Gordon Hayward is having a remarkable season for a small forward in a Jazz uniform, but I don't think anyone on this team is as mentally tough as Mehmet Okur. (Well, maybe Trey Burke, but his mental game deviates into irrational confidence at times.) So to answer the second question, I don't think anyone on this team right now has that killer instinct. Rudy Gobert is probably closest, but his performance game-to-game is as inconsistent as his minutes from game-to-game because other teams want to go small. I remember George Karl neutering Mark Eaton by putting Sam Perkins at the 5 spot in the playoffs. I can imagine Draymond Green at the five would give Rudy a lot of problems too.

What about the first question? When does a young team learn how to win games? Well, if the young team is playing from the get-go then they should learn around the same time, and possibly in their 5th and 6th seasons no longer be a 'young team'. But hey, Corb'd. Fans owe Richard Jefferson. Randy Foye is amazing. Josh Howard gives the team the best chance to win. We heard it all. Moving on . . . if the 'young guys' aren't all playing at the same rate then their learning / experience is going to be at different rates as well.

And I think that's what we have with this team. That, and the fact that there are two different "young guys" groups on this team. One group is around the Hayward pole (Trevor Booker 28 years old, Joe Ingles 28, Tibor Pleiss 26, Gordon Hayward 25, Chris Johnson 25, Jeff Withey 25, Shelvin Mack 25, Derrick Favors 24, Alec Burks 24), and another is around the Exum pole (Trey Lyles 20, Dante Exum 20, Raul Neto 23, Trey Burke 23, Rudy Gobert 23, Rodney Hood 23). If the guys rounding the corner to get closer to 30 than 20 are still playing like 'young guys' then you messed up their development. The people who still aren't old enough to rent a car should get a pass.

So when Rodney makes an error in the 4th quarter it's easier to forgive him. But what's Gordon's excuse, he has played over 13k minutes (regular season and playoffs combined)? I guess his excuse is that he has to do more because he's the only guy with that much experience on the team, and is playing with guys playing catch-up. And that's not his fault. It's the Jazz' fault. It's a series of systemic errors that were allowed to not just persist but thrive, that now present themselves as a team that should be peaking but can't beat the Nets after the Nets waived their two most talented players.

That's a downer idea. But we're not here to suck up to the Jazz. We're here to root for them, cheer for them, and give so much of our daily thoughts to their success -- we've also earned the right to criticize them. And if social media was any indication on Super Tuesday, those rules apply to more than just sports, and whatever team you choose to follow, the noble pachyderms or the care-free equidaetes.

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The Los Angeles Clippers announced that they have a new mascot. It's a California Condor named Chuck. He is effectively Poochie the Dog.

We all hope Chuck will suffer the same fate.

Instead, let's bask in the greatness that is Jazz Bear (who is fun and good and good for you, and isn't some board room driven idea that includes safety gear and a really strange tie to the state the team plays in).

This video is very dated, much like our glory years.

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So in the last game the team played, a loss on the road to the Boston Celtics, Trey Burke received the first DNP-CD of his career. Not just his NBA career, but his entire career playing basketball. If you have followed him you know that he has made a habit of at least being on the court in crunch time and has that 'clutch gene'. I'm not just saying that as a fan here, but as a realist. Historically he has been successful at the end of games on every level. We've seen his on-court performances validate this opinion: from sinking the go-ahead free throws to win state titles in high school or his numerous NCAA threes to win games . . . to his actual NBA game winners . . . it's clear that he's at least as good at finishing games (if not better) than a number of guys who finish games on this team.

The NBA is a different animal and you need to play defense to get out there on the court. Of course, I haven't seen a lot of great guard defense from anyone on the Utah Jazz this year, but Trey's defense must be exceptionally poor if we're making this excuse for not playing him. Furthermore, as a fan base, we usually lament that some bench guard torches us. Someone like Jason Terry, or J.J. Barea, or even the occasional outburst from D.J. Augustin or Jerryd Bayless. More and more this league seems to be funneling towards point guards who are offensive minded. Wouldn't you want to figh fire with fire? That makes it all so much more ironic that it seems like the franchise is 'done' with him.

Via Aaron Falk of the SLTRIB:

To wit (from yesterday), head coach Quin Snyder had this to say:

I think that 5th year pro Shelvin Mack is a fine reserve guard, but I have my doubts that he is actually more talented than Trey Burke. Raul Neto should be a better All-Around player when you factor in his defensive tenacity, but on a bench full of generalists the lack of specialists (with the starters too, mind you) has hurt this team in crunch time. After all, there's a reason why Kyle Korver is out there in crunch time for Jerry Sloan, and not Matt Harpring or C.J. Miles. But that's just actual history backing me up. The numbers back me up too, when it comes to these point guards.

We're not all going to agree on Trey Burke. I see some young guards bounce around their first few seasons in the league before carving out their niche, years removed from the team that drafted them. I've researched this and there are some templates to follow. I think it would be dumb for the Jazz (who gave up two first rounders for Trey) to not wait it out to get a good return on that initial investment. DNP-CDs don't help him or the Jazz.

In the last game, outside of Trey Lyles' amazing 18 points, the Utah Jazz bench managed 11 total points as a unit. The point guard group, Mack and Neto, combined to give the Celtics 25 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals. At some stage maybe the Jazz need to just suck it up and play two point guards at time same time like so many other teams do already for stretches of the game? After all, it's not like the other teams are allowing us to play two bigs at the same time that frequently . . .

Ultimately, Trey's situation is both absurd and complicated, because I didn't even mention Dante Exum yet. If Trey can't make it with this team when the PGOTF is out, then he is just then a slightly more accomplished Jimmer Fredette? I hope not. And I don't think that's who he is as a player either. But you don't have to agree with me. Many people go out of their way to tell me that they do not, as it stands.

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One thing we all can agree upon is that the "Pink Grandmas" are awesome. It's cool how these Utah Jazz fans have risen to prominence (they are even in Jazz videos now). It's a lovely tale, and you get to hear a little bit more about them thanks to KUTV. Check it:

Personally, I always find it startling that the rest of the nation wants to downplay how diverse Salt Lake really is. It's fun to see that at least on the local level people know that loving a team like the Jazz breaks down all barriers.

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John Stockton. Even the numbers fail to show how good it was. BRs Andy put this up and it's important to notice that he deserves to be there as efficiency goes.

And even the video game people are struggling to make him as good as he actually was.

And perhaps that's the great obstacle for any of us ever truly embracing another point guard. We'll always unconsciously compare them to the best that was.