Monson: Jazz’s path to playoffs is relatively smooth
Published: April 16, 2012 10:45AM
Updated: April 18, 2012 03:55PM
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Kim Raff | The Salt Lake Tribune Jazz players (left) Derrick Favors and Alec Burk battle Kings player Francisco Garcia for a rebound during a game at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah on March 30, 2012. The Jazz went on to lose the game 103-104.

With five games to play, and the Jazz a game-and-a-half behind the eighth spot in the West, they still have a decent chance to make the playoffs.

The only real complication for them?

They have to win.

The other guys are likely going to lose, at least some.

The Jazz’s path is not as rugged as the roads of those others. They currently are in the 10th slot at 31-30, with 31-29 Phoenix a half game up in ninth. Houston (32-28) is eighth, with 33-27 Denver seventh.

The Jazz play the Mavs (34-27) tonight at ESA, then 28-33 Portland on the road, followed by three straight home games - against 35-25 Orlando, without Dwight Howard, Phoenix and Portland.

Phoenix’s remaining opponents: Portland, Oklahoma City (44-16), the 37-23 Clippers, Denver, the Jazz and San Antonio (42-16). One bit of help for the Suns is that all of those games, other than the one against the Jazz, are at home.

Houston plays Denver at home, Dallas and New Orleans (18-42) on the road, 22-37 Golden State at home, Miami (42-17) on the road and New Orleans at home.

Denver is at Houston, at home against the Clippers, at Phoenix, at home against Orlando, at Oklahoma City and at Minnesota (25-36).

A wild card in measuring the remaining schedules is the motivation of the better opponents. If the Spurs, for example, decide to rest Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in that last game against the Suns, the way they recently did against the Jazz, it turns a formidable challenge into the equivalent of a game against the Bobcats. If the Spurs are motivated by a shot at the best record in the West, and the home-court advantage that comes with it, they might go all out.

Either way, the Jazz appear to have the smoothest ride, especially since they twice get the chance to play Portland without LaMarcus Aldridge, who is injured.

On the other hand, in a season of sometimes inexplicable peaks and valleys, the Jazz often have played better ball, with better results, against better opponents, and lesser ball, with lesser results, against lesser opponents.

GORDON MONSON hosts the “Gordon Monson Show” weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.