Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Elise Amendola | The Associated Press) Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) drives against Boston Celtics center Greg Stiemsma (54) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Boston on Wednesday.
Monson: The Jazz’s Great Race has started

NBA » Utah will have to throw caution out the window in pursuit of playoff berth.

First Published Mar 29 2012 12:09 pm • Last Updated Mar 29 2012 11:55 pm

Five of my six favorite quotes from auto racing apply, or could apply, to the Jazz’s current sprint with the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets for the last playoff spots in the West:

Parnelli Jones said: "If you’re in control, you’re not going fast enough."

At a glance

Sacramento at Jazz

Friday, 7 p.m.

TV » ROOT Sports

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Stirling Moss said: "To achieve anything in this game, you must be prepared to dabble in the boundary of disaster."

Buddy Baker said: "He ran out of talent about halfway through the corner."

Enzo Ferrari said: "What’s behind you doesn’t matter."

Dale Earnhardt said: "The winner ain’t the one with the fastest car — it’s the one who refuses to lose."

The sixth, which has no application at all to the Jazz, is from Ricky Bobby, saying grace in the film "Talladega Nights": "Dear Lord baby Jesus, we thank you so much for this bountiful harvest of Dominos, KFC and the always delicious Taco Bell. I just want to take time to say thank you for my family. My two sons, Walker and Texas Ranger, or TR as we call him, and, of course, my red-hot smokin’ wife, Carley, who is a stone-cold fox."

The Jazz are in a race all right, and it couldn’t be tighter. With 15 games left, Utah, the Rockets and the Nugs are all 27-24. Barring a strong run by Phoenix (25-26) or Minnesota (25-27), or a collapse by Memphis (27-21), two of the three will make it in, and the third will head for the lottery.

There are many who believe the lottery is actually a better place for the Jazz to land, if they’re serious about adding one more piece — two, if Golden State finishes no worse than eighth in the final standings, on account of the Warriors’ top-seven protected draft pick that otherwise goes to the Jazz — as they build for the future.

Kevin O’Connor, though, says the Jazz are more interested in the present, that they are trying to win now: "That’s what we do."

story continues below
story continues below

So, race they will.

And to pull off a victory, if facing the Thunder or Spurs in the first round can be viewed as that, the Jazz will have to give heed to at least the words of Jones, Moss, Ferrari and Earnhardt.

They’ll have to give caution the universal salute of disrespect and race and play like madmen.

That’s not something they achieved in their last game, against Boston, where they fell behind early and then scrapped to get back in the game late, running out of petrol in the pursuit. That loss showed alternately the Jazz’s weaknesses and strengths. They don’t hit perimeter shots. They don’t give up. They don’t win on the road. They don’t get beat on the boards. They don’t consistently defeat good teams. They don’t run short on young talent.

If the Jazz really have making the playoffs as their top priority, they must utilize their biggest advantage — their depth. In other words, just go for it and run hard. Rubbin’ and racin’, racin’ and rubbin’. If Kevin Garnett swings an elbow, if he dents a fender, swing one, dent one back.

On the last laps of an exhausting season, the Jazz should be fresher than every team they play. Getting up the floor isn’t always their forte, but they should make the attempt to emphasize transition and simply wear opponents out. Run the floor like Gordon Hayward does. The Jazz defense has improved, creating more opportunities for them.

That didn’t happen enough against the Celtics. After the game, Paul Pierce said: "We kind of smell the end of the season, with the playoffs coming. This is the time of year you’ve got to step it up and get ready."

The Jazz are trying to develop that keen olfactory sense.

Of their remaining games, seven are on the road — at the Clippers, Portland, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, Portland. The games at home are against Sacramento, Phoenix, Golden State, San Antonio, Dallas, Orlando, Phoenix and Portland.

The Nuggets’ schedule: Charlotte, Orlando, New Orleans, Golden State, the Lakers, Houston, Phoenix, Oklahoma City and Minnesota on the road. At home, they have Phoenix, Golden State, Minnesota, Houston, the Clippers and Orlando.

The Rockets face Chicago, the Lakers, Sacramento, Portland, Denver, Dallas, New Orleans and Miami on the road. At home, they play Memphis, Indiana, the Jazz, Phoenix, Denver, Golden State and New Orleans.

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.