A lot of people around here think the Jazz making the playoffs would be a big, big deal. I’m not so sure. You’d think getting swept by the Spurs in the first round last postseason was enough of a treat. Getting rolled again doesn’t seem like such a prize, unless you want to teach your young players the fine points of routinely getting bounced from postseason play.
Not sure any of that will matter this April, though. Here are all the reasons the Jazz are absolutely bound to make the 2013 playoffs:
How we doing so far?
How about this reason, this ray of sunshine?
Kobe Bryant’s sprained left ankle.
Maybe there is a merciful basketball god smiling on the Jazz, after all.
Still, they have their part to do, and it hasn’t been getting done, of late. Far from it. Fresh off a lackluster loss at Oklahoma City, after which Tyrone Corbin used descriptive words such as “disappointing” and “concerning,” and Gordon Hayward correctly said the team couldn’t get embarrassed like that and hope to compete, the Jazz find themselves in a tough spot. It’s not that their task is impossible. It’s just that the degree of difficulty ranks somewhere between climbing a wall that’s leaning toward them and kissing a woman leaning away.
With 17 games to play in the regular season, that’s the problematic place where the Jazz stand. Even if they were to suddenly play better ball — they’ve lost eight of their last 10 — they would need help from the two teams they are racing and rubbing with down the stretch — the Lakers and the Rockets. And don’t forget the Mavs, who have just one more loss than the Jazz, and finish the season with a run of home games.
As for the teams in front, as of this writing, the Lakers are 34-32, with 16 games to play. The Rockets are 35-30. The Jazz, who hold the tiebreaker over L.A., are 33-32.
Looking at the Lakers’ schedule, they are likely to finish with at least nine more wins — unless Kobe is out for an extended stretch. They have Sacramento, Washington, Dallas, Memphis, the Clippers, New Orleans, Golden State, San Antonio and Houston at Staples Center. And they travel to Indiana, Phoenix, Golden State, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Sacramento and Portland.
The Rockets play Phoenix twice, Minnesota, Golden State, the Jazz, Cleveland, San Antonio, Indiana, the Clippers, Orlando, Memphis and Sacramento on their home floor. And on the road they have Memphis, Sacramento, Portland, Denver and Phoenix.
There are nine wins mixed in there, somewhere.
That means, for the Jazz to have any kind of chance at the playoffs, they would be forced to find victory at least 10 times, and possibly more, in their remaining games.
They get Memphis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Brooklyn, Portland, Denver, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Minnesota at ESA. And they hit the road to face Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Portland, Golden State, Minnesota and Memphis.
Where exactly are the necessary wins?
If you give them an automatic seven at home, they’ll have to pick up three victories on the road. That’s where the Jazz’s failure to conquer one of their biggest liabilities this season, second only to playing bad defense too often, rips them apart. They can’t consistently win on the road. They lose more than twice as many games as they win away from ESA. Their current road record is 10-24. And that might well kill them.
They have a decent shot at Minnesota, and maybe at Portland. Winning at Golden State could be asking for too much.
The Jazz have a chart in their locker room of the always updated Western Conference standings. They’re fully aware at all times of their circumstances. (They probably knew about Kobe’s sprained ankle before he dipped it in the ice bucket.) They’ll be staring at that chart a lot over the next month, wishing the numbers on it could be rearranged just enough to keep the lights on for a week or two longer.
Who knows? Maybe their wishing will come true. Maybe they’ll play a lot harder and smarter than they did Wednesday night in OKC. But barring something unforeseen and remarkable, wishing will likely leave them wondering how long they might have lasted against the Spurs this time around, had they qualified for that prize.
Gordon Monson hosts “The Big Show” with Spencer Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.