Tonight the Utah Jazz start their last, most defining period of the season. It's four games in five nights, with all four against Western Conference playoff teams -- all wrapped up in a series of two back-to-back sets. And as far as we can tell from the standings, each of these teams wants to win. It's not going to be easy. But the final exam rarely is.
Over the course of this season we've seen our club surprise some good teams, and surprisingly drop "gimmies" on the schedule. I love how the defense has come together over the last few months, and am encouraged by the one-on-one play that sometimes wins games. For each of our major contributors this season we've had lots to cheer over. From Gordon Hayward 's ongoing excellence, Derrick Favors ' steady climb, Rudy Gobert 's highlight moves, Trey Burke 's game winning shot making, Trevor Booker 's hustle and energy, Rodney Hood 's emerging game, and even Dante Exum doing Dante Exum things. There's a lot to be happy about. But even with all the positivity there remain questions.
Is this an average team masquerading as a good one, or one that is destined for greatness on their way up?
Years ago we saw the Deron Williams led Jazz (in his rookie year) miss the playoffs just barely. Nine years later here we are again. But who this team may one become may be easier to figure out with how they play these last four games.
Pack it in early, and pray for a few more percentage points in the lotto, or fight hard and die hard?
It's going to be interesting to see which Jazz team shows up.
So tonight we host the Memphis Grizzlies, and the mummified version of Brevin Knight (their Matt Harpring).
The only beat writer the Griz have ever known is OUT tonight due to rest. But love getting my first look at Griz Live pic.twitter.com/Slmz4OJGRN— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) April 8, 2015
Well, we face more than just him. For the first time in a long time the Jazz will face a mostly intact Grizzlies team. Still no Tony Allen. And Mike Conley is questionable, but I think he plays tonight. It's too important a game for them. If you add him to Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and you have a legit big three that the Jazz are a few years away from projecting. (In terms of power projection, or whatever . . . sorry . . . I've been reading a lot of Zbigniew Brzezinski lately.)
Memphis has been up and down over the last little while, but are very formidable. They just completely silenced the Pelicans 110-84. They know when to turn it on. It's going to be a slow game with a lot of emphasis on defense. It may be facile to say this, but whomever wins the battle of Z-Bo and Marc vs. Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert will probably win this game.
Jeff Green against Gordon Hayward is great. Elijah Millsap and Joe Ingles will have their hands full with Vince Carter. Rodney Hood the rookie will have a challenge against Courtney Lee. Let's not even talk about point guards.
It's a tough match-up for both teams as the #scoreboard suggests. And as the first part of a four day final exam this is what we will remember of our team going into the off-season.