Coming out of the All-Star break the Jazz had a big match-up against the Warriors. Utah led wire-to-wire and winning 115-101 and made up for losing to Golden State back in December. Al Jefferson had 24 points and led the way as seven Jazz players scored in double figures. It was a great showing for the Jazz.
I finally realized while sitting in Energy Solutions Arena Tuesday night what has been bothering me about this Jazz season. It’s that I’m constantly conflicted. Constantly trying to theorize in my head who I want to see play and when. And after tonight’s steady performance against the much improved (or so I thought) Golden State Warriors, I thought I’d be even more confused.
From Big Al effectively using his pump-fake or Millsap hitting a patented fade-away, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the starters play tonight. But there was something different when Hayward, Favors, and Burks were on the floor. And that is where my internal conflict begins.
It excites me when I see the young players succeed. Burks’ twisting layup, Favors back-to-back hustle plays, and Hayward’s efficiency off an injury were my favorite parts of tonight’s game. Often times I want to see the Jazz take the Oklahoma City route of letting young players steadily play 35-40 minutes a game while they learn how to win. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook lost the majority of their games in their rookie and sophomore years but look where they are now. I know the extra playoff revenue for small market teams like the Jazz are essential and I do know how valuable players like Big Al are, so I’ve finally accepted the conflict within. To look at the bright side of things, that these young players will have a winning attitude the rest of their careers because of the wins they are accumulating with veterans ahead of them.
I’ve decided to quit trying to be an under qualified coach in my head and simply enjoy the players and wins we have. Coach Corbin knows what he’s doing. Like Tuesday night, the Jazz were clicking on all cylinders for the entire game. Besides the scare from Stephen Curry potentially dropping 50 points, the Jazz played really great. They passed, rebounded, defended, made shots, and welcomed back a much needed piece in Hayward. The starters did their job of getting a lead and the bench did theirs by maintaining it. For the most part, it was a great home win that Jazz fans have become accustomed to.
I thought Hayward returning from injury with such efficiency will be an intricate part for the remainder of this season. Hayward’s ability to not only create for himself but others was missed and will be essential. As the Jazz continue to get healthy, they could certainly be a difficult out for any team they meet in the first round.
It was a huge win for the Jazz as the chase-down of the Warriors is nearly complete. After looking up at them in the standings for the entire season this loss makes it six in a row for GSW and, more importantly, pulls the Jazz even with the Warriors for sixth in the West.
So as the season finishes, I’ll embrace this new found resolution that it doesn’t really matter who Coach Corbin runs out on the court. Whether it’s the veterans or the young guys, there is nothing I can do but enjoy games like the one they played against Golden State on Tuesday night.