At this point, every Jazz fan knows what’s at stake tonight when our boys take on the Rockets in Houston. A loss may very well spell the end of Utah’s playoffs hopes, a win keeps them in the hunt, blah, blah, blah …
So instead of dissecting every nuance of the game, I figured I’d show the most important aspect taking place tonight: namely, games featuring Denver, Dallas and Phoenix (Memphis slipped away from the pack last week), who must lose in order for us to succeed. And so, here ya go:
Minnesota @ Denver
Why it Matters: Easily the most important game of the night takes place just over the mountains as the Nuggets take on the T-Wolves. Denver currently sits in the eighth and final playoff spot, just a game ahead of Phoenix and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Jazz.
If the Jazz win and Denver Loses: The Nuggets will tie with Phoenix over whom they hold the tie-breaker, and remain just a half game over Utah. A good position for the Jazz to be in seeing as Phoenix must play some pretty tough games coming up against the Grizzlies (see below), Rockets, Spurs (twice), Thunder, and Clips.
If the Jazz lose and Denver wins: All hope is lost.
If both teams win: Not all hope is lost.
If both teams lose: Most hope is lost, since Utah will fall even farther behind Phoenix.
Phoenix @ Memphis
Why it Matters: The Suns need to lose. Straight up. I’m tired of seeing them win games they were losing a mere month or so ago (only Utah is permitted such play). They have won five of their last six, including that awful two-point victory in Salt Lake.
If the Jazz win and Phoenix loses: The Jazz could take a half game lead over the Suns, which they need since Phoenix owns the tie breaker.
If the Jazz lose and Phoenix wins: I’m gonna go on a milk-binge.
If both teams win: The Jazz gain an edge over Houston, but still trail the Suns – not a happy scenario, but a tolerable one.
If both teams lose: Then I think our eight playoff teams are set.
To make things more complicated:
Best Case Scenario: The Jazz win and both Phoenix and Denver lose. Utah moves ahead of Phoenix, within half a game of Denver and a game behind Houston (for the seventh seed no less). Yippee!
Worst Case Scenario: The Jazz lose and both Phoenix and Denver win. In this instance, the best thing for a Jazz fan to do would be to drop to his/her knees and pray to the basketball gods that Dallas continues its late-season free fall.
So there you have it.
Will the Jazz win tonight? I haven’t watched many Rockets games, so I’m not sure how physical/athletic they are. I do know they clobbered us on their home floor back during our mid-season win-drought, and that we beat them a few nights later in Utah. I suppose if Gordy and Harris continue their strong play, and if this kid from the D-League turns out to be the second-coming of John Stockton, then we have a pretty good shot of winning.
Here’s a fun fact: In the blowout loss, Big Al was the top scorer with 23-points. In the win, he only had 14, and deferred mainly to one of CJ Miles’ rare on-target 27-point nights.
Utah cannot allow Lowry to go off on us the way he did during the first game (32-points), where he basically got anything he wanted anywhere on the floor. Our BIGS have to rotate properly to keep Martin and Dragic from penetrating; but must also keep Scola off the glass. I expect Corbin to use the BIG lineup of Harris, Hayward, Milsap, Favors, and Jefferson throughout the game’s second half – he’d be stupid not to.