The Utah Jazz currently holds the eighth seed in the Western Conference with a 32-28 record. However, if they want to clinch a postseason berth or move up in the standings, they will need a healthy Al Jefferson to lead them there.
Utah lost a close overtime game to the Milwaukee Bucks Monday night in which the absence of Jefferson was brutally obvious. The Jazz’s leading scorer (17.1 ppg) and rebounder (9.4 rpg) was definitely missed on both sides of the court, and one has to wonder if he was able to suit up, then Utah never would have fallen to Milwaukee at the Bradley Center.
Jefferson may have missed only two games with the left ankle injury, but he is already listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers may be 20 games under .500, but they certainly have the necessary tools to take down a Jefferson-less Jazz team.
The good news for Utah is that backup power forward Derrick Favors is a great talent who can hold his own. His career-high 23 points and 15 rebounds against Milwaukee was almost enough to knock off the Eastern Conference team, which means he should handle himself well against Cleveland.
However, the Cavaliers are the least of the Jazz’s worries, considering what their schedule looks like over the next few weeks. With the Los Angeles Lakers breathing down their neck and other teams right on their tail, Utah will need Jefferson’s presence more than ever. After the Cavaliers, the Jazz will face a critical stretch in which seven of their next eight games will be against playoff contenders from both conferences.
Jefferson can take the time to rest through Wednesday, but he must be in uniform Friday night when Utah takes on the Chicago Bulls.