The New Orleans Hornets are not in the NBA playoff picture this season … or are they? In the last week of the season, the Hornets have a chance to throw a stinger in some other team’s postseason aspirations. Those stingers are aimed at the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, the three teams vying for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
First up was the Jazz. Utah is a good young team, but not a great team. The have only managed .500 ball while looking dominate at times, beating top teams in the association. However, they have been unable to separate themselves from the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
They made a big stride to get a hold of that final spot, by defeating New Orleans Friday night. They have two more games at home where they are 28-10 this season. The 10th loss was a hard one to swallow, a 17-point beating at the hands of the Denver Nuggets.
Denver is a strong playoff team this year, but the Jazz has lost too many games they could have won. Laying down to the Nuggets in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night was the kind of misstep that has hurt the young Jazz all season.
Chances are the final spot will come down to the quiet Jazz and the boisterous Lakers. Nobody plays politics like the Lakers, and they will use every microphone put in their face to plead their case to garner some sympathy. Don’t think that doesn’t play a part for the last game or two. The NBA wants Kobe Bryant in the playoffs. Unfortunately, that would mean the Jazz would be out.
Utah must take care of business on the court. That starts with another winning streak, like the mini five games they put together a week ago that brought them back into a tie with the Lakers. They are, however, looking at a trip to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday and a visit by the Oklahoma City Thunder next Tuesday.
The Jazz must reach deep and quit looking in their rear view mirrors. Their season is down to five games to see if they can extend their year. Winning all five may be the only way to put the last dagger in the Lakers for the final playoff spot.