What started out as a best-case scenario for Utah this week suddenly got a little scary.
Phoenix, you see, was supposed to lose to OKC and the Clippers – losses that would’ve put the Jazz an entire game over their western conference rivals.
Well, half of that scenario played out.
Too bad the Clips didn’t do their part.
Now, thanks to some crafty free throw shooting by Steve Nash and Channing Frye, Utah again sits on the outside looking in – tied with Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the west. Naturally, of all the teams we hold tie breakers with, Phoenix isn’t one of them. Instead, should the playoffs start tomorrow, Utah would miss the first round by mere percentage points … well, a couple of games really … but still …
At this point, I’m not sure Utah can control its destiny. They may beat Orlando, but chances are Phoenix will whoop up on Denver on Saturday, meaning the standings probably wont change between now and Tuesday when Phoenix squares off against our boys at Energy Solutions Arena. A game that suddenly feels like the world championship to us bottom tier fans.
OK, now for some scenarios:
A. Worst case, Utah loses against Orlando and enters Tuesday’s match-up a game behind the Suns (provided Nash and co. beat Denver). The Suns beat Utah, then the Spurs and end wind up facing off against San Antonio in the first round.
B. Most likely case, Utah and Suns both beat their opponents on Saturday and head into Tuesday’s match-up tied. The Jazz win, and take a one game lead over the Suns – as long as they beat Portland, everyone’s happy. Should they lose on Tuesday, there’s still a chance Phoenix could lose to the Spurs and trade places with Utah on the last day of the season …
C. The world ends in an apocalyptic fury – earthquake, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave; human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria – and the two teams never meet up.
D. The Suns lose to Denver, beat Utah, but then lose to the Spurs. The Jazz beat Orlando, lose to the Suns, then beat Portland … I’m not sure what that means.
E. Enter something here.
So there you have it. Feel free to drive yourself bananas thinking of all the plausible outcomes, but in the end the Jazz must do what they’ve done for that past month: play with heart. If they do that, then Orlando and Phoenix should be a breeze.
If not, well, there’s always next year.
Here are my optimistic year end projections:
Denver splits their last four games (losing to Phoenix and OKC, but beating the Magic and T-Wolves) to finish with a 36-30 record.
Phoenix wins two of their last three games (losing to Utah) to finish with a 35-31 record.
Utah wins out and finishes 36-30. Because they own the tie-breaker over Denver, they finish in the seventh spot and face off against OKC in the first round.
I don’t want to think negatively right now, because my head hurts from all the possible outcomes. (I will say this: should Denver lose three of their last four, a possibility as Wilson Chandler is out, then Utah could still slide into the final playoff spot even with a loss to the Suns … as long as they tie with Denver, the Jazz should be okay.)