With three games left for the Utah Jazz, it’s all about the numbers.
Not Oklahoma City’s shooting percentage Tuesday night, or the tally of Jazz turnovers. Not the number of Jazz players out of uniform, or those not at the arena. Not even the 10 points that separated the Jazz from the Thunder in a 90-80 loss in front of an announced crowd of 19,610 at EnergySolutions Arena.
How many ways can you count to four?
Any combination of Jazz wins and losses by the Los Angeles Lakers that add up to four over the final week of the regular season would mean the Jazz finish ahead of the Lakers, who beat New Orleans on Wednesday, and earn the Western Conference’s eighth and final seed to the playoffs.
The Jazz fell a half game behind the Lakers, who have four games left, two nights after moving back into playoff position with a surprising road win over the Golden State Warriors.
“We’re going to continue to play this back and forth game, I guess,” Paul Millsap said. “But when it’s all said and done hopefully we’ll be there. The schedule favors us, but we’ve still got to go out there and win these next three games.”
Do that — beat Minnesota twice, and close the regular season with a victory at Memphis on April 17 — and the Jazz (41-38) would need the Lakers (41-37) to lose only one. Go 2-1, pray for two Lakers losses.
“You do all of that in your head,” Tyrone Corbin said. “But ... you don’t know what the Lakers are going to do, you don’t know what Houston and Golden State’s going to do. We’re trying to focus on us and where we are and what we’re doing.”
Whether the Jazz, who have won seven of their last nine games, do or don’t make the playoffs remains the last relevant question before they enter an offseason loaded with intrigue. On Tuesday, the Jazz could have done a lot to push that offseason into May.
But with Oklahoma City within range of the conference’s top seed — and a potential first-round matchup with Utah — the Jazz turned in an impressive effort on one side of the ball that they couldn’t match on the other.
On a night the Jazz announced second-year center Enes Kanter would undergo season-ending shoulder surgery Wednesday, Alec Burks missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle and Marvin Williams went home with the flu, the Jazz could have used some good news.
It manifested itself in this: A defensive performance that caused the Thunder to miss nearly 50 shots and shoot 39.5 percent from the field. It was contradicted by their own abhorrent shooting night of 39.2 percent. It made for a plodding, drawn-out affair akin to a dramatic foreign film.Next Page »