If you saw the game between the Utah Jazz and the Detroit Pistons last night, you could have never known that the Jazz have owned the Pistons in recent years. This was a tight game throughout, and it basically took a full 48 to decide the winner. Whether you want to blame the Jazz for playing down to their competition or you want to credit the Pistons for a hard fought battle, it is hard to deny Utah’s unbelievable ability to close tight games out. If you remember, in their previous game against the Grizzlies, the Jazz were also in a position to win or lose the game in the latter half of the final quarter, and they found a way to pull it out.
Some people, like Deron Williams, will say that the Jazz need to stop “messing around” early on in games, and it is hard to disagree with that. However, by learning how to win these nail-biters on a consistent basis, it is preparing Utah for the kind of games that they will likely see come postseason time. Obviously there is a ways to go before the postseason, but if things continue like they have, the Jazz are going to be there, and these games will definitely help them in those nerve-infested spots.
To know that you have the personnel who can knock down big shots and execute effectively down the stretch of game is a huge weight lifted off of your shoulders if you are Jerry Sloan. You can call out great plays and have the confidence that your team won’t screw it up. If you watch the bottom-feeders of the league in close games, you will see that there are plenty of times when they don’t even get off a shot. They are busy fumbling the ball around, making errant passes, and looking like they are more nervous than a young boy performing on stage in front of a large crowd with no clothing on. The Jazz, on the other hand, are composed and calm, and they play with a swagger that says, “we know we have this game.”
Last night it was Raja Bell who came up with the biggest shot as he nailed a 3-pointer that gave the Jazz a 3-point lead with under a minute left. Raja Bell is a good 3-point shooter, but he is definitely not the first option on offense for the Jazz. In fact, if Bell is known for anything, it would be his perimeter defense. For the Jazz to be able to go to one of their last offensive options on the floor and get positive results, it shows just how dangerous this team is.
So yes, it would be nice for the Jazz to come out and smoke a few opponents by double-digits, but it is always fun to see this team’s backbone in the closing minutes of a game. It gives us Jazz fans plenty of reasons to believe that this squad has all of the tools to do something spectacular this season. As if they aren’t already doing that on a nightly basis.
Side Note – I love what the Utah bench has done lately. They are bringing a ton of energy to the team, and at times, they even look better than the starters do. One guy in particular who I am loving is Ronnie Price. Every basket he scores is electrifying, and it always feels like he is scoring double the amount of points that he is. I know that there are a lot of Memo fans out there, but this team seems to be clicking a lot better with him out of the rotation. I would really like to see what Sloan does once Memo comes back for good. I hope he makes the smart decision.