Utah Jazz: Playoffs within reach for Jazz
NBA • With 8 games left, Utah faces another race to finish.
Published: March 31, 2013 11:57PM
Updated: July 7, 2013 11:30PM
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Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah Jazz power forward Derrick Favors (15) and Utah Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward (20) after Hayward hit a 3-pointer, giving the Jazz 87-76 lead with 2:56 left in the game, in NBA action, The Utah Jazz vs. The Memphis Grizzlies at EnergySolutions Arena, Saturday, March 16, 2013.

It’s the thrill of the chase.

Needless to say, the Utah Jazz would rather it wasn’t this way. They’d much prefer to have already locked up a playoff berth and save their fans and management the hand-wringing that will inevitably accompany the remaining eight games of a bizarre, disjointed season.

But still, in their second annual final-weeks push for the eighth spot, there is a sense of excitement around a team left for dead as recently as a week ago.

“I told the guys the other night, man, if you like to compete,” coach Tyrone Corbin said, “you like to be in these kinds of fights. This is where you figure out where you are.”

Entering Monday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Jazz (38-36) are in eighth in the West, holders of a tiebreaker with the Los Angeles Lakers by virtue of a 2-1 win in the season series.

In that sense, the Jazz embody another late-season cliché — they control their own destiny. A loss to the Nets on Saturday and the Jazz would have fallen one game behind the Lakers, who won in Sacramento. Similarly, they’d fall out of playoff position with a loss to the Blazers.

“We have to play like if we lose we’re right back out of it,” Gordon Hayward said after the Jazz’s 116-107 win over Brooklyn, “because that’s how close it is. “

The tight race has left fans and pundits studying the remaining schedules of the Jazz, Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, who lurk 1½ games out of eighth.

But the recipe for the Jazz to reach the playoffs isn’t that complicated. Both the Jazz and Lakers have eight games left. If Utah can win as many or more of those than the Lakers — and stay ahead of Dallas — they will sneak into the playoffs for the second straight year.

Emboldening the Jazz’s hopes is the fact they play five of the eight games at EnergySolutions Arena, where they are 27-9.

The Lakers’ schedule has few gimmes. Five of their remaining eight opponents already occupy playoff spots. Four of the Jazz’s final games are against top seven teams: Denver on Wednesday, at Golden State on April 7, against Oklahoma City two nights later and at Memphis to close the regular season on April 17.

There is a precedent for this. Last year, after a 103-98 loss to Memphis on April 14, the Jazz were three games behind Houston in the loss column for eighth. The Jazz ran off five straight wins to close the season and went to the playoffs.

Asked if he felt this year is going the same way, Corbin said yes, with a catch. Last year was the lockout.

“It’s a little different,” Corbin said. “I think the last year was so fast, everything happened so quickly. This is more normal. Although we’re kind of in the same position we were last year and we need to make a run here to stay in the playoffs. But I don’t feel as rushed as I did last year.”

boram@sltrib.comTwitter: @tribjazz

Remaining schedules

Utah Jazz

Monday • vs. Portland

Wednesday • vs. Denver

Friday • vs. New Orleans

April 7 • at Golden State

April 9 • vs. Oklahoma City

April 12 • vs. Minnesota

April 15 • at Minnesota

April 17 • at Memphis

Dallas Mavericks

Tuesday • at L.A. Lakers

Thursday • at Denver

Friday • at Sacramento

April 7 • at Portland

April 10 • vs. Portland

April 12 • vs. Denver

April 14 • at New Orleans

April 15 • vs. Memphis

April 17 • vs. New Orleans

Los Angeles Lakers

Tuesday • vs. Dallas

Friday • vs. Memphis

April 7 • at L.A. Clippers

April 9 • vs. New Orleans

April 10 • at Portland

April 12 • vs. Golden State

April 14 • vs. San Antonio

April 17 • vs. Houston

Trail Blazers at Jazz

P EnergySolutions Arena

Tipoff • Monday, 7 p.m.

TV • ROOT Sports

Radio• 1280 AM/97.5 FM

Records • Utah 38-36, Portland 33-40

Season series: Jazz 2-1

About the Jazz • Utah snapped a nine-game road losing streak with a 105-95 win over the Trail Blazers on Friday. ... Mo Williams scored 28 points and tallied 6 assists and 5 rebounds against the Blazers. ... Randy Foye tied a 19-year-old team record with eight 3-pointers in Saturday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets. ... The Jazz are in eighth in the Western Conference, thanks to a tiebreaker over the Los Angeles Lakers.

About the Blazers • All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is out due to a sprained wrist. ... Former Weber State point guard Damian Lillard averages 19.1 points and 6.5 assists per game.

Playoff push

• The Jazz own the playoff tiebreaker over the Los Angeles Lakers after winning the season series 2-1.

• Utah has won four games in a row after suffering a four-game losing streak.

• In 2012, the Jazz won five straight games to close the season and make the playoffs.