Yup, I said it. Utah can officially relax. Matt posted a great recap of last night’s game against the Suns here, so I won’t ramble on too much about that game, suffice to say that in the end I wasn’t disappointed.
Utah came out with guns blazing, held Phoenix at bay for most of the game and then completely dismantled them in the fourth quarter. We’ve come a long way since the start of the season. And now, the Jazz have their first ever playoff berth in the Corbin era, at least two years before anyone (myself included) expected them to. (Don’t you just love it when the underdog prevails?)
Even so, Utah has one more game to play: against the lowly Portland Trailblazers tomorrow night at Energy Solutions Arena.
This game feels like the guy who comes into a baseball game after the previous batter nailed a homer – sure he swings hard and does his best, but nothing can match anything that came before. Not even another home run. And so, while the game features at least a shade of importance (a win along with a Denver loss against OKC and Minnesota allows Utah to scoot into the seventh spot, though the chances of that happening are about as slim as Olive Oil), win or lose, nothing will come close to matching last night’s intense match up.
Portland comes into this contest having lost six straight, the most recent being a horrific 124-89 blowout against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday. No doubt the Blazers, led by ex-Utah star Wesley Matthews, would like to end the season on a high note, and what better way to do it then against a Jazz team riding an incredible emotional wave. As such, I see a closely contested contest with Matthews in particular gunning for redemption (shoulda stayed in Salt Lake buddy), but a contest that ultimately falls in the Jazz’s favor.
I guess the biggest question, though, is whether Coach Tyrone Corbin should play to win. Actually, let me rephrase that: should Coach Corbin play his starters for extended minutes? After all there is a chance that Denver falls tonight against OKC, and maybe even tomorrow against Minnesota (maybe they’ll want to do Big Al a favor). On the other hand, busting a G-Pop and resting his starters means that Big Al, Milsap and the gang can enjoy some much deserved R and R, while out-of-shape guys like Howard and Bell could log some extended minutes to prepare them for the upcoming battle against San Antonio (and truthfully, do we really want to play OKC) – we’re going to need all the help we can get come playoff time.
A win gives the Jazz a 36-30 record, incredible when just a mere few weeks ago they hovered over the .500 mark. Coach Corbin might opt to go for the win as a matter of pride – I know Sloan would, stupid as it may seem. But truthfully, the smart thing to do would be to play the reserves at the very least to avoid injury. And who knows, against this depleted Blazers squad said reserves might actually pull off an exciting victory.
That might be a next-at-bat worth watching.