If you were not aware, tonight’s game against the Phoenix Suns is going to be the biggest game of the season up to this point for the Utah Jazz. Not only is it the next game on a 14-game schedule, but it is against a Suns team that is battling with the Jazz for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Jazz currently have a 2-0 season series lead over the Suns, and a win tonight will clinch the all-important head-to-head tiebreaker in favor of Utah. What this would mean is that if the Jazz and Suns finished with identical records, the Jazz would be seeded higher than the Suns, and thus they would end up with home-court advantage if these teams met in the first round of the playoffs.
Although the Jazz have clearly improved on the road as the season has progressed, they are undoubtedly a better team at home. The Jazz, more than any other team in the NBA, in my opinion, rely on emotions and momentum to carry them to victories. Sure, they have the talent on this team to compete with just about anybody in the entire league, but they are at their best with the crowd behind them and surging them forward.
Now, it’s not as if this team cannot overcome road crowds and shift the momentum in their favor away from ESA. In fact, some of their most impressive victories, including their best comeback of the season against the Blazers, actually came on the road.
However, once the playoffs start, it’s a whole new ballgame. Even though the Jazz have shown the mental toughness to fight through any obstacle over the course this season, you would rather not have to play with fire during the postseason. You need to make sure that you have every advantage possible to improve your chances of winning, and getting that extra home game is one of those advantages.
Because, come playoff time, everything becomes magnified and each advantage matters. In essence, the advantages that you have in the playoffs are like the amount of bullets you have in your arsenal. The more of them you have, the better chance you have to be the one who survives.
So, if the Jazz want to enter the playoffs with a fully-loaded gun, they need to make sure to win this game tonight and grab all of the bullets available.
Yes, the Jazz are banged up, and the statuses of some key players are still unknown. And yes, they will be playing on the road in a hostile environment in Phoenix. But this is where the Jazz have thrived all season long. With the odds stacked against them, and the weight of the world falling on their shoulders, they are the ones who rise up to the challenge and stand tall like no other team.
Now, the only question left to ask is, “Will the real Jazz show up tonight, or will they be replaced by the group of impostors that lost to the Clippers?”