Maybe they should have saved some of this stuff for mid-April. Or maybe these guys finally are rediscovering the home-court aura that the franchise enjoyed a decade or so ago, just in time.
This was a productive week, that's for sure. A team that looked lost in last Saturday's loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles recovered with home wins over New Orleans and Washington, with a road rout of Sacramento in between.
The Jazz (47-29) still face a major battle to hold onto the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference and earn home-court advantage in the playoffs, considering the Clippers (46-31) own the tiebreaker and have a more favorable schedule. Yet the Jazz showed Friday that they're good enough to finish this race and make a stand in playoff games in this building.
Toughness is displayed in different ways, and the way the Jazz fought through the difficult times against the Wizards was encouraging. Gordon Hayward responded by scoring 10 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. Shelvin Mack and Dante Exum outscored Wizards star John Wall 25-16, which nobody could have seen coming. And with the help of a critical steal by Joe Ingles, Mack scored on consecutive drives with the outcome in doubt.
The Jazz needed a poised, strong finish to overcome the Wizards, and they produced it. Wall blamed the officiating, not giving the Jazz any credit, but even that's a good sign. Maybe the Jazz have reached the stage where they'll get some breaks against established players and top-tier opponents.
Before the game, Snyder good-naturedly played along with the suggestion that having the same personnel available (and missing) for two contests in a row qualified as continuity around here. Imagine the medical likelihood that the Jazz could have two point guards, George Hill and Raul Neto, sidelined by the same injury: a right groin strain. Derrick Favors also remained out.
"You have to adapt … continue to adjust to who we have," Snyder said. "I don't use many initials when I write up plays. It's usually [position] numbers."
Remember the old days in October and November, when the Jazz usually were missing only one starter?
Through 76 games this season, the Jazz's first-choice starting lineup — Hill, Rodney Hood, Favors, Hayward and Rudy Gobert — has been available only 13 times. One of those precious moments came Feb. 26 at Washington, where those starters scored all but 15 points in a 102-92 defeat of the Wizards. The Jazz are 11-2 with that starting five, so it is natural to wonder what this team may have done with any kids of reasonable health.
As the calendar turns to April, the question becomes whether the Jazz will be able to produce anything resembling their best stuff in their first playoff appearance in five seasons.
"Who knows, we may not be healthy for the playoffs," Snyder said. "I'm not sure what 'healthy' means. But we're going to play."
The Jazz's effort against Washington made that perfectly clear, on an imperfect night.
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