Eight days ago the Utah Jazz had just lost for the fourth straight time after a furious comeback fell short against against the Dallas Mavericks. Down double digits in the last few minutes of the game, the Jazz fought back to eventually get the game down to a single possession. The Jazz ultimately lost, but ever since that Sunday night loss they’ve been an entirely different team.
I can’t think of a better time for the Jazz to have their longest winning streak of the season. After beating the Portland Trailblazers 112-102 last night in EnergySolutions Arena, the Jazz are a half game up on the trailing Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot.
Reigning Western Conference Player of the Week Al Jefferson once again led the Jazz as he methodically abused rookie Meyers Leonard throughout the night. Mo Williams continued his inspired play during the win streak and Derrick Favors played like a number three overall pick. And how could I forget that magnificent jump shot from beyond the three point arc that Randy Foye has put on display the last two games? The Blazers never really had a chance, and in fact, the Jazz led all 2,880 seconds of the game. Jeremy Evans put an emphatic exclamation point on the win when he finished an alley-oop from Jamaal Tinsley that made it seem as if Evans had taken off in West Valley City. It was quite a play for the seldom used (albeit former Slam Dunk champion), Evans.
Maybe the most encouraging sign that the Jazz were back to playing Jazz basketball was the six turnovers that they had throughout the entire game. Those extra possessions undoubtedly helped the Jazz stave off the Blazers who still managed to shoot 58 percent from the field and hot 56.5 percent from three point range. The Jazz took 16 more shots than Portland, a number that wouldn’t have been possible without protecting the basketball.
It’s amazing how a week and one day can change things. The team was tired. Fans were cranky. Things had an overall bleak feeling. Sure the schedule got easier, but the Jazz have suddenly taken control of their own destiny. The most important number during a playoff push is the loss column, and the Jazz now have the same number of losses and even hold the tiebreaker in case they end the season with the same record as the Lakers or the Mavericks.
The Jazz have seven games remaining, and more than half of them come against playoff bound foes. The toasty Nuggets come to Salt Lake City, the Jazz travel to Golden State, OKC will be in EnergySolutions and the Jazz end the season in Memphis. While the Lakers season ending schedule isn’t easier, the only option for the playoffs is to continue to win. If the Jazz play the rest of the way like they did tonight–and the last three games– a date with the aging San Antonio Spurs will be on the horizon.
“Nobody is going to quit on this situation and think about another situation,” said head coach Ty Corbin after the game. “We’re trying to seize the moment.”
The Jazz need to win five of their last seven games to effectively hold off the Lakers. A feat that would require them to go 2-2 against the aforementioned playoff teams.
If the Jazz can continue to efficiently protect the basketball, play hard, and continue the streak, hopefully they’ll end up seizing that moment. That way we’ll still be around after April 17th to talk about it.