40 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 19 of 27 field goals made in 41 minutes of action. Al Jefferson had himself quite the night, historic in fact. The only other player to put up a line like that in Jazz history is the great Karl Malone. It’s a performance not often seen by any player and hopefully Jazz fans everywhere enjoyed it. Unfortunately in the grand scheme of things it just wasn’t enough.
The Lakers keep winning. Kobe Bryant’s injury seems to have added even more fuel to the fire. His will can be felt from the sideline and even though he can’t play he still won’t let his team lose. No Kobe? No Nash? No problem. Steve Blake and Dwight Howard scored 23 points and 26 points a piece. Howard also pulled down 17 rebounds and and Pau Gasol chipped in with 16 of his own to lead the Lakers to a 91-86 win over the San Antonio Spurs yesterday. That’s right and it wasn’t a “Greg Popovich is resting his starters” Spurs team. Tim Duncan did what he does scoring 23 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Tiago Splitter had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Danny Green chipped in with 16 points. Tony Parker however was not himself going 1-10 from the field and scoring only 4 points to go along with 8 assists and 4 turnovers. This is the game I thought the Lakers were going to lose, but this is a team on a mission and they are playing with a lot of pride.
So what’s a Jazz fan to do? Pray? Voodoo dolls? Macumba (help us out Brazil!)? Cry? Unfortunately this Jazz team can only point fingers at itself. That is where all the blame and responsibility reside. Ridiculous losses early in the season to the Hornets, 76ers and Kings certainly aren’t helping right now. That could have been forgotten however had it not been for the 4-12 debacle after the all-star break. Had the Jazz gone a much less pathetic 7-9 during that stretch they would be 45-35 and in the 7th seed thanks to the tiebreaker they won’t be able to use over Golden State. Those 3 road losses to the Bucks, Cavs and Bulls are really hurting right now. Not to mention 2 losses to the Knicks on the road and at home when they didn’t have Carmelo Anthony or Amare Stoudemire playing. How about a home loss to the Bulls as well? There are many excuses for these losses, some valid, others sound like trying to let this team off the hook. Frankly I don’t want to hear them. I want answers and I want improvement.
Even if the Jazz don’t make the playoffs I want them to win out and end the season 44-38. To me this would show that this team still has some pride left. It’s hard to win games when you know you’re season is over, especially when the Jazz have tried so hard to stay in this race. The mental and emotional toll it takes on these players must be enormous. What a positive message it would send to Jazz fans and future employers to show that even though you know you’re season is most likely over, you still gave it your all to make the playoffs.
So what needs to happen for the Jazz to sneak into that 8th seed? 1. The Jazz need to win out. The game tonight is going to be tough and the Jazz will need a better all around effort from everyone tonight. 2. The Warriors need to beat the Spurs tonight and the Rockets need to beat the Suns tonight or they both need to lose so that their records remain the same. 3. I bring up those 2 teams because Houston owns the tiebreaker with the Warriors and they need to have the same record so that Houston stays motivated to win. 4. Houston plays the Lakers in LA for both teams’ last game of the season. If Utah has won out and Houston beats LA, then the Jazz are in. The key is having Houston motivated to play that game. The Warriors last game is against Portland so if the Warriors can beat the Spurs tonight and Portland on Wednesday they will finish 47-35. If the Rockets win out they also finish 47-35, claim the 6th seed and eliminate the Lakers. What does Houston want to do though? They were 1-3 against the Spurs this season (possible 2 vs 7) and 0-4 against the Nuggets (possible 3 vs 6).
It is unfortunate that the Jazz find themselves in this position but they did this to themselves. This is what they deserve. Hopefully this has been a learning experience for all involved. From the young guys who got more minutes this year, to management who gave Coach Corbin quite the challenge in managing a roster with 8 free agents (I fully expect Marvin Williams to opt in). Here’s hoping the Jazz get in and our young guys get a better taste of playoff minutes. This does more for our future than moving up 2 spots in the worst draft in the past 20 years.