The Utah Jazz are holding for dear life at the moment. Currently sitting in the Western Conference’s eighth spot with the Los Angeles Lakers breathing down their necks, it’s time for the Jazz to play their best basketball of the season.
The magic number for the Jazz this year has been 13. Right now, they are 13th in the NBA for points per game, rebounds per game, and assists per game. That should tell you that even without a big name superstar on the roster, they have a pretty solid team. The biggest issue for the Jazz is closing games out late and playing championship caliber defense.
The biggest advantage the Jazz have heading down the stretch is their post play. Between big Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the Jazz have gotten over 32 points and 16 rebounds per game. Both are also averaging a block and a steal per game as well. Much often overlooked and underrated, Jefferson and Millsap are a much better combo down low than many give them credit for.
Heading into the stretch run of the season, the Jazz are going to need their big men to step up now more than ever with games against the Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Memphis Grizzlies. The end of their schedule isn’t the most friendly with having to play teams such as these, and the Jazz have struggled in the fourth quarters of games this season. Utah is going to need to first establish a lead, and depend on their bigs to keep it down into crunch time.
If the Jazz were to make a run and get in, they would have a tough task in front of them with the San Antonio Spurs waiting in the first round. More than just their bigs, two X-Factors will be point guard Mo Williams and forward Gordon Hayward. Hayward has shown flashes of being able to play a consistent game on both ends, but he will need to step it up in the playoffs if he were to guard guys like Manu Ginobili or Kawhi Leonard. Williams on the other hand is going to have to match the production of Tony Parker and Patty Mills.
Things look bleak for the Jazz if they were to succeed in holding off Kobe Bryant and his Lakers to squeak into the playoffs, but by no means will it definitely be a sweep. The Jazz are capable of playing good basketball, but it’s going to take consistently good basketball particularly in the fourth quarter to make any noise beyond the first round.