I’ve been away from the blog these last few days because I was trying to spend as much time as possible with my family before this weekend. That’s a purely logical situation because I’m not a fan of sleeping on the couch, and also, because it’s hard to go to the park and have a picnic with a flatscreen TV. The playoffs are finally here my friends, and boy have they been exciting.
Yesterday was a day where Derek Rose showed us why he is going to be one of the Top 5 PG in the league for a very long time – if he’s not already there right now. The Baby Bulls won in overtime to beat the Boston Celtics, who are still playing without Kevin Garnett. The other East match up played out a bit more according to plan, and as a guy who lives in the Motor City, I don’t need to get into it. Out West the Spurs, without Manu, couldn’t get the job done against Dallas – making for the 2nd game of the playoffs where the lower seed won game 1. Lastly Yao Ming, Luis Scola and company completely manhandled the Blazers. It was a huge blowout, and another game where the Road team won game 1. It was a pleasure to tweet about. Of course, having the home team win only one game yesterday is going to be something brought up by the 4 head coaches of the home teams playing today. I’m not really going to expect road wins today from 75% of the teams playing (maybe 50%, though…).
This does not bode well for the Jazz. But hey, I’ve pretty much run the gamut of emotions these last few days and I’d like to say that it’s a pleasure to be in the playoffs. I don’t think that we’re at our best right now, but after the season that we’ve had with over 150+ games lost to injury, repeated nagging injuries, deaths in the Jazz family, and now the crazy chemistry problems – we’re playing with the house money now that we’re even in the playoffs at all. (As bad as we’ve played and had it – we’re still ahead of a team that has Nash, Shaq, Grant Hill, Amare*, and so forth) (*Yeah, he got injured for the rest of the season half way in it) No one would be upset with the Jazz if they didn’t make the playoffs this season with the way the season played out this year (very bad road team, esp. vs. the top teams, horrible on back to backs, and so forth).
In the first round the Jazz will face off against the NBA Champions (just ask Lakers fans, they’ve already won the title, just like last season, and every season in the history of the NBA, including future seasons, we just don’t know it yet because ‘we be hatin’), the Los Angeles Lakers. This is a less than ideal match up for the Jazz as they have speed and length at every spot save for PG. Their bench is deep and they hit a ton of threes against our defense (that seems to disregard that a three point line even exists at times). Also they are media darlings and have a noted Jazz-Killer on their roster: Kobe Bryant.
If the last game of the regular season is any indication, even if Kobe is neutralized (because he is on the bench) and the Jazz shoot a ton of FTs, Utah can only really hope to hang with the Lakers for little under 3 quarters. It looks bad right now, because it is. That does not mean that the Lakers will roll the Jazz in 4 games. LA is still very likely to win this series (only the most unfortunate injuries at the wrong time can derail them), but it’s not going to be a sweep at all.
Utah has a lot of pride at home (remember that “be proud stay loud” theme?), and is going to win in SLC. Utah even beat the Lakers earlier this season in SLC when the Jazz were not healthy. (Btw, how bad is it going into the playoffs when you’re still not healthy? That sucks…) I can just as easily see the Jazz needing to come back strong in Game 3 and winning that out of necessity. (If the refs have a recognition of where they are playing, Game 4 should also go the way of the Jazz) Realistically the Jazz will go down fighting in 5, and the best case scenario is in 6.
The main problem is that in this series our best offensive players in the paint happen to be among our worst defenders in the paint (and our best defenders are too green to impact the game greatly due to disuse over the season). This leads to relying on doubling, which itself leads to leaving homosexuals like Sasha Vaggy*itch open for threes. (What’s worse, that we let Sasha kill us, or the fact that Sasha seems to own Korver?)
Defensively the Jazz need to really step it up, which is hard to do when the ref calls fouls on you when you’re not fouling. (Like the the last game of the season Fesenko picked up two fouls just because the refs were upset that he was keeping Bynum out of the paint, or how Brewer apparently fouled Kobe on a shot when Brewer was a few inches away from Kobe) It’s not going to be a pretty series, with the games either being blowouts by the Lakers or chippy games that result in very slim wins for the Jazz.
Ultimately the goal is to show up and garner some of the respect that the Jazz lost this season. The Atlanta Hawks stood up to the Boston Celtics last season in the playoffs as the 8th seed and became very well regarded as a result. Right now everyone wants to trash the Jazz and jump on the bandwagon of more immediately successful teams (Portland, for one). I pretty much despise Portland and wish Houston all the best in that series, by the way. Utah needs to stand up and play tough playoff basketball.
The Lakers are expected to win this round, but I don’t expect the Jazz to give one inch willingly. If they do, then it may be time for me to stop being a fan of the previously very tough Jazz.