Have you ever been on the ride Tower of Terror? You know, the ride where you go all the way up on an elevator only to be dropped back down to the ground in a heartbeat?
Well, being a fan of the Utah Jazz in the last 6 days has been exactly like riding that ride a bunch of times.
It all started last Tuesday when the Jazz were able to defeat the Golden State Warriors, and the Phoenix Suns were able to dispose of the Denver Nuggets. Because the Nuggets had completed the regular season with 53 wins, and the Jazz had 53 wins with one game left to play, I was very optimistic that the Jazz would win the Northwest Division and lock down at least the 3 seed in the WC Playoffs.
Leading up to that season finale with the Phoenix Suns, I was pumped. Everyone I had spoken to on Wednesday afternoon knew how excited I was to watch that game. It was all I was talking about. In fact, it probably got to a sickening point (sorry to all who were subjected to it). I couldn’t help it. Watching the Jazz fight all season long with a very talented Nuggets squad was a journey, and the Jazz finally had the ball in their court with a chance to overtake them on the final day of the regular season. Too much had gone into this not to care as much as I did.
Then came the news that Andrei Kirilenko and Carlos Boozer were not going to play against the Suns. This was like a quick jab to the face. Nonetheless, I remained hopeful that Utah would band together like they had so many times before, and they would overcome their difficulties in front of the home fans at ESA.
Of course, that was not meant to be.
The Jazz laid a huge egg against Phoenix, as they appeared totally outmatched. I couldn’t blame them. They were down two key starters. Despite understanding it, I felt robbed because of everything that the Jazz had lost (Home-court advantage, a round one matchup with the injured Blazers, the Northwest Division Title, the more favorable side of the WC Playoff bracket).
Some time on Friday morning, I finally came to terms with Utah’s playoff position as a number 5 seed and the fact that they were going to take on division rival Denver in the first round. But of course, just as that had set in, the terrible news popped up on my computer screen: Andrei Kirilenko would be out for an additional 2 weeks, and he would be missing the entire series versus the Nuggets.
“Who is going take ‘Melo? Why now? Is this some sort of Joke?”
My day, amongst other Jazz Rowdies, was ruined.
When I woke up Saturday morning, AK’s injury was still a concern, but I realized that I had to move on. After all, it’s the NBA Playoffs! Guys step up, and heroes are born. And especially with a team like Utah where you can get production from anywhere, I was STILL hopeful that the Jazz could overcome the odds.
“Hey, maybe Wesley Matthews will step it up. Or how about CJ Miles? Kyle Korver is automatic when he comes off of the curl. We’ll figure something out. We got one of the best PG-PF combos in the league.”
Of course, my optimism was kicking in again and deluding me of the reality: Utah was screwed.
Finally it was time for the game. But for some odd reason, Kevin Garnett and Quentin Richardson decided to waste my time and get into a fight with only 40 seconds remaining in the Celtics-Heat game. Was this really necessary?
So I hopped on to ESPN3 to catch the opening minutes of the Jazz and Nuggets, but to my delight, it would not load. I had been looking forward to this game for so long, and I couldn’t even see the opening minutes!?
But no worries. By the time the game switched over to Utah and Denver, the game had been tied at 21, so it was like I hadn’t really missed anything (yeah right). As I watched the game, and I watched the Jazz battle back from a few deficits, I truly believed that the Jazz might just have enough heart and grit to steal game one in Denver and possibly the series. Trailing by one at halftime made this seem all too possible.
Then came the 3rd quarter, which is still giving me trouble when I try to figure it out. Deron Williams woke up from the dead, and he basically took over the game on the offensive side of the ball for the Jazz. If the Jazz were scoring baskets, D-Will was involved. Whether it was his ability to score or his ability to set his teammates up for easy scores, the Denver Nuggets could not the stop the league’s best point guard (according to Dirk Nowitzki, of course).
But here comes the puzzling part. When the 3rd quarter had finished, the Nuggets actually outscored the Jazz by one. Huh? Was this the same 3rd quarter that I had just witnessed?
Well, it turns out that the Nuggets closed out the quarter with a few huge shots, while I was probably still busy thinking about all of the unbelievable plays that Utah made. It was just so annoying how Denver could just shift the momentum back in their favor in such a short time. The Jazz worked so hard to get where they were, and it just felt unfair that they could lose it so quickly.
The 4th quarter was much of the same, as the Nuggets turned a see-saw battle into a rout for the home team. JR Smith, who I had nightmares about the night before the game, unfortunately made my dreams come true, as he nailed three after three. Seeing the ball swish through the net was like a dagger going into my chest every time, and I knew that the Jazz once again blew a great opportunity.
Final Score: Nuggets 126 – Jazz 113
I always say that if you can’t steal game one on the road when you have the chance to do it, the series is pretty much over. You only get so many opportunities as a road team to win a series, and you need to seize those opportunities. Especially with the Jazz being down a couple of starters, the win would have given them more confidence than anything. But it was just not meant to be.
Thinking about the 4th quarter meltdown from the night before, optimism came knocking on my door once again. “Oh well, maybe you can get lucky and steal game t..”
But just as I was about to complete my sentence, the final dagger came scrolling across my TV screen: Mehmet Okur done for the season.
After reading that, I doubt that optimism will be visiting my head anytime soon. Of course, a Jazz victory in game 2 might change all of that very quickly.